By Chikondi Magalasi:
They say patience pays but surely it must now be wearing thin for the enthusiastic youths of Phalombe District, who have been waiting in vain for seven years as their dream of having a youth resource centre remains exactly that; a dream.
Youths make the larger part of the district’s population as 2018 population census statistics indicate that 50 out of 100 people in the district fall into the age bracket of 10-35 years.
In 2013, young people from Mkhumba Youth Network, a hub for youth clubs based in Traditional Authority (T/A) Mkhumba, thought that having a youth resource centre in the area may reduce some of the problems that they have been facing.
However, seven years down the line, the dream is yet to be fulfilled despite authorities pledging support.
Chairperson of the network, Moses Kathumba, said as young people, they feel ignored since new developmental projects have been done over the years whilst ignoring theirs, of which 30 percent of the work is already done.
“We feel that our leaders take our desires for granted, politicians have been promising to help us during campaigns but once they get elected all what they know is giving us a cold shoulder.
“Since 2013, legislators have been promising to help us through Constituency Development Fund (CDF) but they haven’t, we are tired of their games,” he said.
Axccording to Kathumba, they already have land for the project which was allocated by chiefs and that they have 70,000 burnt bricks which were made by communities in the area with help from local leaders.
“Each village contributed something so that we should have these bricks, having heard and appreciated good things which come when you have a youth resource centre and now we’re hopeless,” he added.
T/A Namasoko, who at the time the idea of constructing a youth resource centre was hatched was a Group Village Head, said he never thought that in 2021 people would still be talking about the project.
“I know that most of our youths would have something to do for a living as per what we discussed, the centre would be offering some vocational skills such as tailoring, welding among others.
“All these high number of teenage pregnancies and early marriages you hear in the media would have been avoided or reduced if the youths had a meeting point where they would be accessing useful information about Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR),” he said.
He added that other chiefs at the time convinced T/A Mkhumba (now deceased) to allocate land for the project.
“Each and every Village Head and his people contributed a little something that helped to have those bricks you are seeing, it is sad that by now the dream which our youths and us had is yet to pass,” he explained.
20-year-old Mirriam Andsen said it is high time elected leaders started thinking about development of the youth.
“If we are to meet then we do that under a tree or we seek for a classroom at a school which is not good at all. We need not only one but more youth resource centres in this district.
“Look at our health facilities; they do not have youth corners where we could be going comfortably to take contraceptive methods without being shy at all,” Andsen said.
Phalombe’s District Youth Officer Ian Sukali concurred with Andsen that the district needs to have youth resource centres if indeed elected leaders have the welfare of the youth at heart.
“25 years have gone since the government declared Phalombe as an independent district but up to now we do not have infrastructures meant for the youth,” he said.
One of the youth rights activists in the district, Vincent Thom, said though they been advocating for the construction of the resource centres for a while now, it appears that is not a priority for the district council, Councillors and legislators.
“As youths, we put much effort into that project, it is sad that our leaders have been showing no interest. We won’t sleep at all; we want to see Constituency Development Fund or District Development Fund being used to finance that project in the coming fiscal year,” Thom, who is Executive Director for Phalombe Youth Arms Organisation, said.
However, Vice Chairperson for Phalombe District Council, Bernard Komwa, said the project has been included in the newly developed District Development Programme (DDP) which will see four youth resource centres being constructed in the district.
“Our youths shouldn’t get worried, we have incorporated this project in our DDP which you’ll see four youth centres being constructed and placed in all the corners in this district, we’ll make sure that this should happen,” Komwa, who also confirmed that the said project falls in his Mpasa Ward where he’s serving as councilor, said.
Ironically, the said five year (2017-2022) DDP which was approved towards the end of 2020 is to expire next year.