Patrick Mlande, 29, had always wanted to become a welder but things never went his way.
Financial problems took their toll. His three attempts to enroll at any vocational training centre after finishing his secondary education at Goliati Community School were always frustrated.
Neither his father nor mother could afford to support him from the little proceeds they made from their tailoring shop and tomatoes businesses respectively.
“I was completely hopeless and didn’t have any clue where to get support to bail out myself from the problem,” says Mlande, the firstborn in a family of six, two boys and four girls.
But one day, a ray of hope emerged when one his distant aunts paid their family a visit.
“She encouraged me to enroll with one driving school in Blantyre and promised to support me. I didn’t have to think twice to accept the offer because I knew that this was the beginning of my transformation.”
After obtaining the driving licence, Mlande, went through a long spell of being jobless until another opportunity for school came.
This time around, it was through the new initiative of community colleges. When government started calling for applications for enrolment in the newly introduced community colleges, Mlande applied through the Thyolo District Labour Office.
“I was among 700 successful candidates to enroll for a two-year welding and fabrication programme at Milonga Community Technical College in 20l5,” says the young man who comes from Mangazi Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Chimaliro in Thyolo.
After graduating, Mlande had no tools or capital to start his own welding shop. His friend recommended him for an apprenticeship at another welding shop at Golomoti Trading Centre in Dedza in order to enhance his practical skills.
“I learnt how to make burglar bars, door and window frames, bicycle and minibus carriers, just to mention a few,” he adds.
In October last year, a colleague informed him about an initiative by World Vision Malawi called Action for Adolescent and Youth Programme (A4AY), which was targeting established clubs to train young people as mentors on entrepreneurship.
“I knew this was an opportunity for me to become a mentor in welding,” he says.
Mlande joined Matapata Youth Club where he underwent the training. With his experience in welding, he volunteered to share the knowledge and skills with fellow youths through one welding shop called Mafaifi at Golomoti.
Currently, young Mlande is training two young people, Doreen Gogoya and Richard Chinyama to become welders. But the dream to own a shop is still alive and is looking for resources to establish one.
“I need close to K2 million to procure welding equipment such as grinder. Once I manage to acquire, I plan to empower many less privileged youths with vocational skills on top of doing business,” he says.
Mlande’s apprentices, Gogoya and Chinyama, say they acquired vast amount of vocational skills from their mentor in the few months they have been with him.
“We are now making doors, window frames and burglar bars on our own. Hopefully, we will learn more after the six months we have been granted,” says Gogoya.
In his part, Horace Mafaifi, owner of Mafaifi Welding Shop, says he provides the platform for welding skills development in order to empower the youth with entrepreneurship skills even if they are constrained with welding materials.
He hails Mlande for complementing his goal of equipping young people with vocational skills in this area.
Mlande is one of the many young people who are yielding the fruits of A4AY on entrepreneurship to uplift their lives as well as contribute positively to national development.
World Vision Malawi Technical Programmes Manager for Education Florence Pwele observes that the organisation aspires to see more youths realising their potential by becoming productive citizens and contributing meaningfully to national development.
Pwele says at least 1,350 youths have benefitted from A4AY, which is being implemented in 32 T/As in 14 districts of the country.
Under the programme’s components of entrepreneurship, the youth are gaining knowledge and skills in textile, fashion and design, welding, tailoring as well as carpentry and joinery.
Thyolo District Youth Officer Doreen Mbendera commends World Vision Malawi for their efforts in promoting social and economic livelihoods of young people through entrepreneurship.
“There is a need to identify and link more young people to skilled local artisans to empower them with different vocational and entrepreneurship skills. It is good that World Vision is already doing that,” Mbendera says.
Ministry of Labour, Youth, Sport and Manpower Development Public Relations Officer Christina Mkutumula says, apart from ensuring that there are enough working tools in community technical colleges, government is also encouraging the youth to establish clubs.
“The idea behind that is to mobilise them so that they can easily access soft loans from banks through the ministry and buy materials for their trade,” Mkutumula says.
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