To underscore the importance of the centre, Louis Simbeye said many jobless youth in Chitipa were being lured across the district’s borders by promises of good jobs.
Simbeye was speaking about the importance of the proposed Kasama Skills Development Centre to Chitipa, and how it will help in addressing problems unemployed youth in the district are facing.
But very often, Simbeye continued, the so-called well paying jobs turn out to be menial work performed under extremely harsh conditions, forcing the Malawian workers to send messages home pleading for help.
He said that not long ago, about eight boys were trafficked from the district and went to work in estates in a neighbouring country under hazardous conditions.
“The high rate of unemployment in the district leaves youth prone to human trafficking,” Simbeye told a development meeting at Kasama in the area of Traditional Authority Mwaulambya in Chitipa.
He said: “This is because they are promised attractive jobs abroad but only to be exploited.”
The centre is one of 12 community skills development centres (CSDCs) that will be established across the country under the Technical Entrepreneurial, Vocational and Education Training (Tevet) Improvement Project (TIP).
The K2 billion, World Bank funded-TIP project will see Teveta (Technical Entrepreneurial, Vocational and Education Training Authority) establishing four CSDCs in each region.
Annitha Mlowoka, Teveta project officer for the North, said the CSDCs were intended to increase access to Technical, Entrepreneurial and Vocational Education Training (Tevet) by out-of-school youth.
Mlowoka said the centres were also aimed at giving access to adults who fail to make it to formal Tevet due to limited capacity and restrictive entry requirements in conventional technical colleges.
“CSDC is an institution established in a community, owned by a community, and run by a community to cater for youth and adults who would like to further their career and those who did not complete their schooling or never attended school,” she said.
Slightly over 4 000 youths are expected to be trained during the project’s five-year life span.
Tevet receives 16 000 applications each year, but the fullest capacity for both private and public technical colleges is only 1 500.
Even then, out of the 1 500 students who get enrolled in public technical schools, the vast majority are from privileged families, leaving out many youths from poor families.
“Training will be conducted in the beneficiary communities, thereby increasing access to employment- oriented skills development programmes in rural areas,” Mlowoka said.
She said the training would also broaden the range of market-relevant Tevet programmes in priority sectors in partnership with the needs of employers and industry.
“The training will benefit the community by increasing skills base there that can be utilised in community development projects and establishment of enterprises,” Mlowoka said.
The TIP project also aims at addressing the issue of gender imbalance in vocational training, as well as the limited number of persons with disabilities that are taking part in Tevet.
Chitipa has a population of around 220 000. Of the figure, about 101 000 are jobless youth most of whom engage in alcohol and drug abuse, and marry early.
The scarcity of employment opportunities in the district forces some youth to migrate to the border districts in neighbouring Zambia and Tanzania, enticed by false promises of better paying jobs.
“Chitipa has many school leavers who are unemployed. As a result of being jobless, they indulge in bad behaviour, marry early and migrate to neighbouring countries to seek employment,” Simbeye said.
Simbeye, who is secretary of Kasama CSDC management committee, said lack of institutions in Chitipa that could provide skills to the youth was retarding development in the district.
Chitipa has only two skills development centres, Khama and Lufita, which cannot meet the high demand for vocational skills from the tens of thousands of unemployed young men and women in the district.
The new centre, to be located in an area that was formerly owned by the defunct Kasama Tobacco Pilot Scheme, gives a ray of hope to idle youth.
“It will help youth of Chitipa to acquire skills which will help to improve their livelihoods,” Simbeye told the meeting which brought together Teveta officials and the centre’s management committee.
Realising how useful the initiative would be to the district, the district council asked for land from the Ministry of Agriculture that could be used to set up the skills development centre.
Buildings that are there include an office block, warehouse and a shed which can be rehabilitated into an office block, classrooms and workshop.
Eric Ngozo, director of planning and development for Chitipa District Council, thanked Teveta for the initiative. He said it was in line with government’s agenda of empowering school leavers and school dropouts.
Ngozo said due to the shortage of job opportunities, many youth in Chitipa were crossing the border into neighbouring countries where they go to perform odd jobs.
He said there was no way of knowing how many cross the borders in search of jobs, but “if it is males, they go to do heavy tasks. As for females, they are either employed in homes or rest houses.”
Ngozo said when operational, the centre would provide youth the much-needed vocational skills that would enable them to stay put, live independent lives and contribute to the country’s development.
Speaking when she addressed the Kasama CSDC management committee, Mlowoka stressed the need for the members to cooperate among themselves if the project was to succeed.
“Cooperation is vital for the success of the centre,” she said. “Remain united and avoid backbiting.”
In his remarks, Lewis Msasa, Teveta head of corporate affairs, said his organisation wants to take vocational skills to every corner of the country, including the remotest areas.
Billy Kayange is a youth who finished secondary school four years ago and has been idle since. On the centre, he said he was optimistic it would be of great use to the youth in the district.
“Many youth in the district either marry early or while away their time doing bad things because there is nothing to keep them busy,” said 25-year-old Kayange who is married and a father of one.