Informal bricklayers win locals’ hearts


It is one thing to decide to build a house and something else to identify a builder to do a good job. This is the problem one Martha Sinkhonde faced.

Martha, 26, of Chipwera Village in Traditional Authority Misuku in Chitipa, wanted to build a house but did not know a builder to pick who could do a good job according to her plan.

She was mindful of the fact that these days many Malawians are becoming dishonest when it comes to issues involving money and one has to be extra careful when picking someone to do a job for them.


And so at a loss to find a good and honest builder, Martha gave her father the task of assisting her in identifying one.

When her father asked people who had built houses where they got their builders, Kasama Community Skills Development Centre (CSDC) was repeatedly mentioned.

He was told that at Kasama CSDC, he would find not one but several good builders to choose from. Pleased with the information, Sinkhonde thought he had found a solution to the problem.


But when the father told his daughter builders were available in abundance at the skills development centre, Martha had doubts the students could do a good job as she considered them to be learners.

“I had serious doubts because being students, I thought they were still learning and hadn’t mastered the art of building houses. I feared they would not do a perfect job,” Martha told this writer.

But she gave them the benefit of the doubt and offered five students from the CSDC a contract worth K160,000 to build a three-bedroom house at Kapoka Trading Centre along the Chitipa-Karonga Road.

That was in August this year. A month after construction work started, the students finished their part of construction which involved building walls of the three-bedroom house, much to Martha’s joy.

Martha is not the only person delighted with the performance of informal bricklayers. Countless people across the country are speaking highly of informal builders, hiring them again and again to build houses.

Although many informal bricklayers in the country cannot read or write, they are increasingly becoming popular in communities, proving to be master craftsmen when it comes to building houses.

They have become adept at their work, largely thanks to the CSDCs which have been established in the country under the Technical, Entrepreneurial and Vocational Education and Training Authority (Teveta) Improvement Programme (Tip).

Teveta is implementing the programme with K3.8 billion funding from the World Bank.

Twelve CSDCs have been established across the country under Tip, four in each region.

The CSDCs aim to provide Tevet at a local informal institution focusing on training that is relevant to the locality with a view to promoting self-employment and economic empowerment of the local masses.

Informal local bricklayers have embraced the programme, using skills acquired from CSDCs to win contracts of building houses in communities, in the process sustaining their livelihoods.

In Chitipa, the programme has put a stop to early marriages and immoral behaviour among youths due to scarcity of jobs and training opportunities in the district.

And again thanks to Tip, there has been a decline in the number of jobless young men and women being trafficked to neighbouring countries to do dangerous jobs.

There is a story that is often told of eight boys who were trafficked from Chitipa to work in estates in one of the neighbouring countries under a hazardous environment.

Unable to endure the harsh working conditions, the boys reportedly sent back home messages of distress, pleading with their relatives to go and rescue them.

And there are those people who cross borders of their own accord after being promised lucrative jobs but, on arrival, realise they had been tricked and are forced to work under exploitative conditions.

Locals such as the five informal students who built Martha’s house believe the CSDCs will help youths to lead independent lives and avoid bad behaviour such as doing drugs and drinking alcohol excessively.

“I became a builder after working as an assistant to a bricklayer,” said Jacob Ghambi, 28, one of the five bricklayers. “I used to give him mud for construction and watched keenly as he did his work.”

He said he gradually learnt how to build houses but the CSDC had enabled him and the other four colleagues to improve their skills so much that their services were in high demand in communities.

“We have had five more contracts since we built madam’s house,” Ghambi said, referring to Martha who is a primary school teacher. “This centre is giving villagers such as me priceless building skills.”

What is drawing locals to the informal bricklayers is that their fees are comparatively cheap for the quality work they produce.

People in the know say Martha’s house would have cost her about three times more what she paid the five students as labour fee had she engaged a professional builder.

“She would have spent between K400,000 and K500,000 to pay a builder,” said Percy Nungu, a Tevet Master Craft Trainer at Kasama CSDC who supervises informal bricklayers.

Nungu said his students started as local builders, assisting bricklayers who used to build structures haphazardly in communities for lack of formal training.

“Most of them started as assistant bricklayers who provided mud to builders,” he said. “As time passed, they learnt and started building houses themselves.”

The skills the informal bricklayers had acquired from the CSDC had made informal bricklayers to become professionals in their own right, according to Nungu.

Kasama CSDC will soon be upgraded to a community technical college. Building of structures is currently underway and informal student bricklayers are doing construction work to perfect their skills.

Nungu agreed that informal bricklayers were in great demand in communities, saying so much that the centre had problems keeping them because of the many requests they were receiving for their services.

“We have been forced to impose stiff rules so they can stay and finish their course, or else, they wouldn’t be here. But in a way you can, this is a good development,” he said, grinning.

Asked for her sentiments on the students’ job, Martha expressed satisfaction about the way the house had been built, saying they had done more than she expected.

“I am very happy with the job they have done,” the single mother of one who already owns two houses, said. “The house is well built and, most importantly, I didn’t spend much money to build it.”

Facebook Notice for EU! You need to login to view and post FB Comments!
Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button

Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker