Honouring Ida Chilembwe


President Peter Mutharika says exclude women in any development agenda and you may as well forget about moving forward as a nation.

“No country can develop without empowering women to be part of progress,” Mutharika said.

He made the remarks in a speech when he officially opened Ida Chilembwe Community Technical College (CTC) at Providence Industrial Mission (PIM) in Chiradzulu District.


The opening of the college marked the fulfillment of the promise the Malawi leader gave people of Chiradzulu on Chilembwe Day at the same venue last year.

Chilembwe Day is a public holiday in the country set aside to remember John Chilembwe who, as the forerunner of Malawi’s nationalism, was the first African to protest against colonial rule.

On Chilembwe Day in 2017, PIM Church leaders pleaded with government to build a community technical college at the mission as a way of remembering the good work of John Chilembwe.


Mutharika heeded the plea and decided there was no better way of honouring the Chilembwes than pledging to build a CTC and naming it after the wife of John Chilembwe in recognition of her work.

One year and seven months after he gave the promise; Mutharika returned to PIM and at exactly 4.11 p.m. on September 13, 2018. He officially opened the Ida Chilembwe CTC.

The K456-million vocational school is a fitting honour to Chilembwe’s wife, who reportedly started a vocational school for women in a bid to help improve their families’ livelihoods.

Born in 1871, the Reverend Chilembwe was a Baptist minister and educator who spent some time studying in America. When he returned home in 1900, he founded PIM and with it established some schools.

Chilembwe was not amused upon his return with the way white settlers were treating Africans, especially those who worked on estates. This prompted him to stage an uprising against the colonial rule.

The revolt on January 23 1915 was not successful and ended when Chilembwe was killed on February 3, 1915. But Malawi will always remember him for his spirit of nationalism which inspired others after him.

Besides being honoured with Chilembwe public holiday, John Chilembwe’s image also appears on some of Malawi’s bank notes. But his wife has never been honoured.

In his speech during the inauguration ceremony of Ida CTC, Mutharika said people gathered, not only to celebrate but also to honour Ida Chilembwe, calling her the country’s first great woman.

“I have named this college after Ida Chilembwe because it is important for us to honour our patriotic women,” he told the mammoth crowd that converged at PIM to witness the college’s opening.

“Women are important drivers of economic development. John Chilembwe knew this wisdom and he involved his wife in the struggle for economic progress.”

Mutharika said as the first African “in this part of the world” to create a skills development programme, John Chilembwe had a vision for his country so that it could be self-dependent.

“His wife Ida joined him in implementing this vision…[but] somehow we lost this vision and I am reviving it,


he said.

Ida CTC is one of the 14 colleges government has built to date across the country. The college currently has 120 students who are pursuing different trades of their choice.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government rolled out the CTC programme after it took over the reins of power in 2014. The plan is that each of Malawi’s 193 constituencies must have a college.

A community college is a training institution whose educational facilities are available to the youth and other members of the community, according to a Ministry of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development brochure.

It further says, “It can also be an institution established in a community, owned by a community and run by a community to cater for youths and adults who would like to further their career, and those who did not complete their schooling or never attended school.”

One of the CTC Programme objectives is to address the prevalence of unemployment among the youth who form the majority of the country’s population, now at 17 million plus.

The programme’s first cohort graduated in 2017 at a ceremony President Mutharika presided over at the Bingu International Conference Centre in Lilongwe on August 2, 2017.

At the ceremony, a total of 697 graduates were awarded level 1 and 2 Malawi TEVET (Technical, Entrepreneurial and Vocational Education Training) Certificates in various trades.

CTCs offer certificates in bricklaying, carpentry and joinery, tailoring and fashion design, welding and fabrication, and electrical installation, among other trades after learning for two years.

The colleges, according to Ministry of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development have already created more than 2,500 jobs to Malawians working in various capacities.

Mutharika told the nation in his speech at the ceremony that more than 100 years ago, Ida Chilembwe started lessons in arts and crafts for women.

“She believed that women must be part of the industrious spirit in the progress of society,” he said. “More than 100 years later, we continue with the vision of empowering our communities with skills.”

Mutharika said the country was instilling a spirit of independence among its young men and women. That was why his government set up the CTC Programme.

He said: “I want a Malawi where young men and women are self-dependent. By empowering the youth with skills, I want the empowered youth to be the driving force of progress.”

“I want the youth to be the driving force of our industrialisation programme. I believe in empowering our young men and women to be able to do things for themselves and for others.”

Mutharika said skills development was vital if Malawi was to develop, pointing out that countries that had developed invested in their human capital by improving their vocational and educational systems.

He said his government is aware of the importance of investing in human resource.

“As such, my government expanded some public universities and public national technical colleges in addition to building community technical colleges in all the 28 districts in the country,” he said.

Mutharika said the colleges were offering various trades which the labour force demanded so that those youths who might not start their own enterprises should easily be employed.

He said construction works of the CTCs were at different levels of completion and assured the nation that by December this year, all districts would have a functional CTC.

A representative of PIM Foreign Mission, Terrence Griffiths, earlier said PIM was one of several missions in Africa, but “this one is the only one that produced a hero” who believed in empowering Malawians.

Griffiths thanked Mutharika for building Ida CTC, saying it would serve as a “field of dreams” and build the capacity of countless youths who would contribute to the development of the country.

In recognition of the Malawi leader’s effort to develop PIM, and in recognition of the mission’s fallen heroes, Griffiths presented a Nelson Mandela award to Mutharika.

He said Mutharika would always be regarded highly “because you keep your promise and made the dream a reality”, in reference to Mutharika’s fulfillment of his promise to build a CTC at PIM.

Mutharika said skills development was an important part of the education system in the country, adding that the system of education must teach skills, good character and knowledge.

“Let us have a skilled society. Let us have a knowledgeable society,” Mutharika said. “I believe in the proverb ‘teach me how to fish,’ instead of ‘give me fish to eat.”

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