The first time you meet Tionge Nyirenda (23) with a welding machine in her hand, you would think she is simply passing time at this workshop. But come six hours later, you will be surprised that she has produced an attractive steel chair.
Nyirenda, who comes from Nthambazale Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Mwankhunikila in Rumphi is one of the many young women in the district whose life has changed after acquiring technical and vocational skills thanks to Technical, Entrepreneurial, Vocational Education and Training Authority (Teveta) and Jenga Skills Development Centre (JSDC) for the combined support.
She is proud and says: “It is good that I can make money on my own. I am empowered and I know my life is changed for good.”
Driving past the JSDC in Bolero exposes tens of young women in work suits busy working on steel bars while others remove dust from displayed finished products ready for sale.
Despite the smiles on the faces, the journey to reach the feat has never been easy.
“After sitting for my Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) examinations in 2011, I thought I had achieved a lot and I will go straight into the university and later secure a white collar job, but. this did not happen and I ended up rusting at home. I could not have money as my parents could not give me upkeep money as they used to do while I was at Nthambazale Community Day Secondary School. As a girl, I need many things including those I cannot ask for from my parents,” she explains, adding that a month would go without sourcing even K200.
This is now history. She says after undergoing a three-month welding training at JSDC, she is able to make as much as K80 000 in a month.
She says her misery began after failing to obtain six credits at MSCE to study her dream course, computer science at the University of Malawi. Much as Nyirenda wanted to rewrite the examinations the following year, her parents said they had no money at the time.
“I was not happy to be in the home every day. I wanted to be doing something and this forced me to join Tidalirane Youth Club in our area,” she says.
She finally saw light at the end of the tunnel when she learnt that there would be a training course for out of school youths organised by Teveta at JSDS and interested club members should apply for the course.
Nyirenda did not hesitate to apply and she was among the 19 successful young women selected to train in welding and fabrication.
“When I told my parents about it, they were not happy because they thought welding and fabrication is a career for men. But I insisted and now they can appreciate fruits of the course because from what I earn, I support the family,” explains Nyirenda.
She adds that she is able to support her brother in Form Two at Rumphi Secondary School.
Francis Puleni, Rumphi district director of planning and development is proud of the initiative. He says the initiative has helped many youths to acquire technical and vocational skills.
“We have seen tremendous improvement in the welfare of many youths in Rumphi. The centre with supervision from Teveta has empowered plenty of women in our district in trades deemed to be male domain. We are looking forward to more women gaining financial independence through this initiative,” says Puleni.
According to the programme’s concept paper, the initiative targets young people like Nyirenda. Since its inception in 2000, it has trained over 4 500 young men and women in different technical skills such as tailoring and designing, carpentry and joinery, welding and fabrication, bricklaying, information and communication technology (ICT), tinsmith and bakery and confectionery.
Wilson Nkhoma, Teveta director of training programmes, says the basis of the initiative is to train young people in various skills as a way of empowering them to have a better livelihood.
“Teveta acknowledges skills training that take place in both formal and informal sector. Both our policy and Act support implementation of initiatives that promote entrepreneurship through the acquisition of technical and entrepreneurial skills,” explains Nkhoma.
He adds that the trainings offered at different community centres such as Jenga are aimed at minimising poverty among Malawians. Initially designed to be implemented in selected centre’s, the programme is expected to benefit youth clubs, organised local community groups and vulnerable groups across the country.
Driven by one of its objectives, which is to facilitate sound and sustainable financing and funding mechanism to Tevet providers, Teveta is geared to help the country develop by empowering young people to go into entrepreneurship. n