Malawi has introduced community technical colleges with the aim of equipping the youth in various technical and entrepreneur skills. This initiative has been touted as a right move in the development of the country as this lays the foundation for the attainment of human capital which is necessary for any country’s development.
On 2 August, 2017, about 700 youths have graduated from these technical colleges, perhaps, marking the turning point of Malawi’s development as these youths have been sent into the world not only to be self-employers but to be employ others as well.
Among these graduates was John Lanjesi, 25, who was awarded a first level certificate in bricklaying. Lanjesi, who left school only in standard 7, never thought he would one day, receive any professional certificate, after he had lost hope of becoming a responsible father.
Lanjesi, left school, to help fend for living his siblings, after they lost their parents. He used to do piece works which included digging pit latrines in his Chilobwe Township, in the city of Blantyre.
One day, he learnt the news that a community college, called Chilobwe Community Technical College, has been established in his Chilobwe Township and that it is open to all youth who are able to read and write English.
At first he thought, the man who came with this news to him was only mocking his academic status. Later, after enquiring from the college’s administrators, he found this was true and he registered immediately for a bricklaying course.
On 2 August, Lanjesi, a mere standard 7 dropout shook hands with President Mutharika and was tasked with the responsibility of being his own employer as well as employing one or two youths.
Lanjesi is one among thousands of African youths neglected by their governments because of their low education. Yet, they have the potential to contribute to their country’s development.
But in Malawi, the government of Prof. Peter Mutharika has set plans to use these neglected group of the African youth by equipping them with various technical and entrepreneur skills through the establishment of Community Technical Colleges.
The government of President Peter Mutharika, introduced these technical community colleges in 2015, as a departure from the traditional colleges which require particular level of secondary school education. These colleges are open to all individuals and the only requirement is that one should be literate in reading and writing English language.
This is what makes these colleges as African-centred because they are targeting the marginalised of the society and aims at involving every youth in the development of the country. It is a departure from the norm because most African governments have ignored the youths that have either not completed their secondary education or those that dropped in the primary school levels.
In this initiative of youth development, the government intends to have at least one technical college in all parliamentary constituencies. Malawi has currently 193 constituencies. From 2015, about 11 technical colleges have been established and about 17 are due to open.
The idea to establish community technical college was first articulated by Malawi’s late president Bingu wa Mutharika, the elder brother of the current president. The idea was developed around one of the priorities of Bingu’s administration which was rural integrated development.
This development priority aimed at transforming the rural areas into progressive zones of development by building a post office, market structure, police, community hall and a community college.
The government of Peter Mutharika adopted this idea and improved it to mean more things for the development of the country.
At the recent graduation of the first cohort of these community technical colleges, Mutharika stated that youths who graduate from these colleges, will help in the development of the country through various innovations and entrepreneurship.
The programmes offered in these technical colleges include Textile and Fashion designing, Carpentry and Joinery, Bricklaying, Motor-cycle mechanics, among others. The Technical Education, Entrepreneurial and Vocational Education and Training Authority of Malawi (TEVETA) is the examining body that awards the certificates to those that successfully complete their courses.
Mutharika further said that these 700 youths, form the greatest commission in continuing with his late brother’s mission of transforming Malawi from a predominantly consuming and importing nation to predominantly producing and exporting nation. He also hinted that this initiative will hit on the nail, on the problem of youth unemployment in the country which stands at 7%.
Perhaps, the direction that Malawi has taken in developing its youths, is what most African countries need now. For example, if each of these 700 youth employs 5 people, 3500 jobs will be created at once and this will help solve Africa’s greatest puzzle of youth unemployment.
Africa’s current figures of unemployed youths are alarming. The International Labour Organisation 2015 report for example, found that about 71 million African youths, out of the 850 million employable youths, are not in formal jobs.
Recently, there have been boat tragedies on the seas between Europe and North Africa as the youth attempt to find themselves in in the European countries, for example, Italy and Germany, in search of job opportunities.
Despite that other African countries are making progress in reducing unemployment but the strategies that are used are elitist- that is they only target at training the learned youth population without considering the other larger part of the African youth that dropped out of school in early stages.
This means that the concept of community technical colleges, apart from helping in reducing high levels of unemployment, will also go a long way in increasing access to professional technical education, offered in the African public universities which have usually limited spaces. The Malawi community technical colleges adopted a competence based training and education approach in implementation of its curriculum.
Malawi community technical colleges, in one way or another, can be viewed as the right model for the development of the youth population in Africa, which has been focusing on the development of elitist systems of education leaving out of the equation the urban-rural poor youths that did not manage to proceed with their secondary education.