By Theresa Chapulapula, Contributor:
Triza Malemusi, 23, decided to enroll for a course in plumbing a t Mponela Community Technical College after her Malawi School Certificate of Education examination results failed to meet the minimum requirements for entry into the University of Malawi.
She had seen fellow youths loitering in her community after failing to clinch spots in the country’s oldest and biggest university and private institutions where they could not afford to pay for their education.
“Now that I am studying plumbing, there are two ways to earn a living after I complete my course. I can either get employed or start my business,” says the girl from Traditional Authority Kanyenda in Nkhotakota.
She sees her decision to venture into the plumbing course as a convenient one from which other youths in the lakeshore stretch and beyond should learn.
Technical education, Triza muses, can solve various challenges that the country is facing.
Broken sewer pipes, water taps and toilet sets tell her there is business waiting for those willing to go all out to make a living.
“In our locations, such problems are many and, if you are trained, you easily do the work and make money,” she says.
That thought also compels her to wonder whether unemployment should continue to haunt most young people in a country.
“There are role models in the technical and vocational education sector. It does not always work to focus on white-collar jobs which mostly make you an employee,” Triza says.
Mponela Technical College is being supported by Skills and Technical Education Programme (Step), an initiative funded by the European Union (EU) and partially implemented by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.
The programme seeks to promote equitable and gender-based access to technical, entrepreneurial and vocational education and training (Tevet) and strengthen the governance and management of Tevet regulatory bodies and training institutions.
Step gender and education specialist, Jean Munro, says increased uptake of technical education is key to women’s empowerment.
“Technical education is for anyone who chooses it and it should not be guided by your gender but by passion and interest. I strongly encourage girls and women to look beyond social and cultural norms,” Munro says.
She further observes that at the moment, girls and women are seeing that technical education is a way to have a stable income and to be financially independent.
“More women are running construction and renewable energy businesses. They are using their technical education and it is working,” Munro says.
On the other hand, she appreciates that attitudes of communities towards women who venture into technical education sap their passion.
“These attitudes keep women in small boxes and restrict them from reaching their potential. At the end, such women cannot contribute to development,” she explains.
Nevertheless, Munro is of the view that the increase in the number of women venturing into technical education is a sustainable pursuit in breaking stereotypes.
EU dedicated approximately K142 billion to support secondary education and vocational education and training in Malawi from 2014 to 2020.
“We seek to increase the quality and volume of the skilled workforce and contribute to the economic development of Malawi,” programme manager for education at the EU delegation, Lena Veierskov, says.
She adds that the objective will be achieved by focusing on increasing access to Tevet by constructing and equipping 40 state-of-the-art workshops across the country.
Public Relations Officer for the Ministry of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development, Christina Mkutumula, says the government is implementing various initiatives to encourage the country’s youth to choose technical education.
The initiatives, according to Mkutumula, include the construction of modern community technical colleges and skills development centres in all districts in Malawi and subsidising fees in technical colleges to make them affordable to many young people, among others.
“Technical education increases the quality and volume of the skilled workforce, reducing unemployment rates as students are equipped with entrepreneurship skills that enable them to be self-employed and, eventually, employ others,” she says.
Mkutumula adds that government ensures that courses that are offered in the colleges respond to the needs of industry.
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