Malawi is considered to be one of the poorest countries in terms of generating wealth. Poor countries that are on the path to development are supposed to generate employment for their citizens. However, unemployment levels in Malawi are shockingly high. What may be going wrong?
The Malawian education system does not prepare students for the real world. It is geared towards getting graduates into jobs. Besides, the system is ill-equipped to prepare graduates for a life where most of them will not get a formal job at all. The reality is that the country will never create enough jobs to employ all graduates. This mismatch is worrying.
Malawi has by choice focused on smallholder agriculture rather than commercial agriculture. The labour needs for the former are different from the latter, which requires skilled labour. It is so unfortunate that graduates from Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) are jobless upon graduation in an agro-based economy. ..
The simplified socialisation for Malawians goes like this: “work hard in school so that you get a good job.” A good job must always be a doctor, a lawyer, an accountant, in an office etc. and nothing else. During our college days, I remember how students studying Classics, Drama or Arts among others were being looked down upon.
However, in my travels across countries, I have seen how people from other countries who studied similar courses are doing extremely well—even better than the other occupations in certain cases. I have observed that anyone who does what they do well and monetise it, they can make some money and be very comfortable. One does not need to be a doctor or a lawyer to do well.
It is not too late for Malawi though. Politicians will not change this country as their vision for the country is always short term. I am calling for a process led by the private sector with government, universities and colleges participating. If private sector mobilised its resources to redefine the education system, the country would listen and take action. The private sector that has made us believe that lifebuoy is “medicine” can utilise similar skills to change Malawi on this path.
An example of such initiatives is that being championed by Myjobo.com, a Malawian start up. It is setting up initiatives with partners that will bring revolution to the employment and education sector in Malawi.Myjobo.com is set up on the premises of, what is called “Jobonology”—the idea that individuals do not always need to be formally employed to earn a living. Rather, individuals with various talents and skills, graduates or not can still utilise their skills and monetise them to earn enough money for themselves and their families.
Malawi needs to set up mechanisms for identifying and nurturing various skills and talents of individuals starting from primary schools up to tertiary level. In sports, for example, we need to set up appropriate systems for identifying and nurturing athletes, footballers and netballers, among others. Some Malawians could earn a living through sports—Kenya and Ethiopia are great examples of this. The same applies to the utilisation of skills in arts, crafts and fashion.
Another key element is nurturing entrepreneurship and private sector could work with various stakeholders to promote and nurture this. How many private sector entities have collaborated with University of Malawi departments or students in research? If this could be done in a structured way Malawi would be different.
is establishing partnerships with appropriate organisations in Malawi and internationally to move forward the concept of jobonology into practice. The initiatives will prioritise working with the Malawi Institute of Education (MIE), universities, colleges and various educational institutions to develop appropriate curricula that prepare students for a world where they may not be employed formally, but they can still earn a living. Myjobo.com will utilise its national and international networks to achieve this.
—The author leads the International Jobonology Movement.