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Rethinking career guidance to seal career gaps


John Chikakuda, now in his early 40s, always scored the highest marks in Standard Eight at Kamalibwe Full Primary School in Mzimba.

Ironically, Chikakuda did not achieve his goal in life. He dropped out of school before advancing to secondary school and immediately joined the bandwagon of village drunkards where he articulates the subjects he mastered in class.

He believes lack of career guidance and counselling services during his time contributed to his failure to advance in his education.

“During my time in primary school, the only profession we knew was teaching or nursing. I didn’t like both of them; hence, I voluntarily dropped out of school,” he says.

Chikakuda may not necessarily be alone in this predicament as this used to be a common occurrence in the past years when learners, particularly those in countryside (rural-based) schools, lacked access to career guidance and counselling services.

Career guidance and counselling expert Brian Chidampamba Katimba says, the world over, students are under a lot of pressure – pressure to perform academically, pressure to be popular and pressure to ultimately make a good life.

Katimba, who is also Executive Director of the Organisation for Career Guidance (OCG), says the one thread that touches upon all these is the choice of one’s career.

“It is a decision that is often taken under parental or societal duress. However, one must seek proper career counselling and guidance to make the right decision,” he says.

He says selecting a qualified counsellor who has lot of experience in his or her field can help students understand their potential, thereby increasing their interest in that field and suggest the right course for them.

Katimba says to recommend a student their right path, the counsellor usually tests the students’ aptitude and observes their interest and personality.

“And as they are advancing to higher grades, the necessity becomes high to decide their career options. It is necessary for them to decide their career goal as the world is becoming more and more competitive in all career fields. They need to discover their own interest and potential in their respective field before choosing any subjects and institution right for them,” he says.

Since 2015, OCG has been organising annual career guidance and counselling fairs in partnership with Technical Entrepreneurial and Vocational Education and Training Authority (Teveta) and Music Crossroads Malawi.

However, this year, the National Council for Higher Education (Nche) has expressed interest to be part of the event in its drive to create a platform where different career-related information is shared to the desperate youth, especially girls, who are said to be in dire need of knowledge on the existing careers and what they can do to pursue such careers to avoid professional mismatching.

The organisation also commits itself to the promotion and popularisation of career guidance and counselling in Malawi, especially among the youth through policy advocacy, civic education, career talks, role modelling and mentorship.

Katimba says these fairs carry different themes and attract not less than 600 youths.

“The three previous fairs of 2015, 2016 and 2017 also enjoyed the presence of representatives from Ministry of Education Science & Technology, National Council for Higher Education and Teveta among others. This year, the 4th Career Guidance Fair, which has been sponsored by Teveta, Nche and ZAMM Investments is scheduled to take place at Masintha Ground on May 25 2018,” Katimba says.

He says this year’s fair will he held under the theme: Career Guidance and Counselling; a Missing Piece in Our Education System.

Minister of Education Bright Msaka says information on one’s strengths and weaknesses plays a critical role in helping a student choose a suitable career path.

Msaka, who gave a career talk to learners at Kavitowo Full Primary School in Mzimba and Chatoloma in Kasungu last week, says career guidance and counselling supports and motivates the student to reach their goal, which is essential for them to be successful.

“They also improve performance of a student by giving them hints like how to expand your network. Many times, students grow up with preconceived notions – ‘I must become a doctor, since my father is one’.

“Good career guidance and counselling can quell these notions and help the student view themselves for the individual that they really are,” he says.

Msaka has since expressed pleasure to participate in this year’s fair where institutions of Nche –accredited higher learning (universities and colleges) – will showcase their programmes, enrolment requirements and more importantly on the jobs/ careers the youth shall do when they study with them.

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