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The Nut Cracker: This could be your legacy Mr President!

In the midst of so many complaints about how the DPP government is running the country (from the kwacha devaluation to the Fisp mess via the shortage of maize in Admarc depots) one would be forgiven to assume that there is nothing good coming out of the DPP led government.

Apart from the much talked about Public Sector Reforms, there is the less discussed and yet very important programme of this government that has the potential to transform the country. This programme if well implemented would bring positive results to Malawi. It has the greatest opportunity to compliment the public sector reforms by nurturing a citizenry that will do business unusual.

This is a programme that would help to bridge the gap between the rural areas of Malawi and their urban counterparts. Most importantly this programme targets a very important segment of the country. The youths!

Malawi’s economic development depends on current reality and future possibilities and nothing would be more futuristic than investing in the youth today in order to have a skilled labour force that will strengthen the economy for years to come. In any country, one of the most reliable indicators of its future potential is current state of its youth. In Malawi, it is estimated that 66% of the population is less than 25 years old. It is this generation that some of us pin our hopes on for a better Malawi. The current adult population to be honest has failed the country.

But how will the future be bright if the completion rate of secondary education in Malawi is low among young adults ages 20 to 24? What hope do we have if among currently employed youth aged 15-19, over 70 percent are employed in agriculture in agriculture and are based in rural Malawi? How do we hope to compete with others in the global world if Malawi’s enrolment into formal vocational institutions is 35 per 100,000 inhabitants, a figure much lower in than the whole Sadc region with Lesotho at 110, Mozambique at 130, Botswana at 1228 and Mauritius at 1561.

Malawi has only four public technical colleges, and three grant-aided technical colleges making a total of seven, all of them established in the Kamuzu Banda era. Since Banda’s time no other president has had the vision to increase the number of these type of institutions despite the fact that the country’s huge number of youth expected to be enrolled in these type of colleges.

Despite these statistics the youth in Malawi are the future we have, they will be the actors in the development of the country and whether educated or not, whether skilled or not, they will be the citizens to make decisions about leaders, they will be once to produce and they will be the ones to lead.

There are many ways that youth can contribute to national development. They can do so by working hard in any field they are involved in. However, to ensure the active participation of young people in national development, they need to be supported and encouraged by the government, the private sector, the civil society and their parents. Most of all they need to be equipped with the relevant skills that matter for the needs of their communities. This is where I believe the community colleges scheme is the answer. One does not need to belabour the point that there are many young people who if given the required skills and support can contribute meaningfully to national development.

That is why I think that the community colleges initiative is commendable because Malawi has inadequate training institutions for technical and vocational education to accommodate the large number of primary and secondary school graduates, especially those in the rural areas.

Since 1994, various political leaders saw the youth as useful only to executing political objectives and sometimes as weapons to be used in politically motivated violence. This community colleges project is a chance to treat the youth as an important ingredient in the economic development of Malawi. The frustration of the youth is mounting and that is why the failure of this initiative is not an option. Given the bleak economic prospects in 2016, this could probably be the DPP’s major achievement by 2019 and the Presidents lasting legacy.

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