Stanley Banda, from Mataka Village in Chiradzulu is living his dream, building his life brick by brick. The bricklayer, 29, is fascinated by industrious people who use their skills to lift themselves out of poverty.
Growing up as an orphan in a family of four children raised by their grandmother, life was hard for them.
“I became a tinsmith as a teenager under the mentorship of one of village craftsmen. Slowly, I gained experience and made a name,” he says.
For three years, he was an instructor in an informal skills training initiative lead by Development Aid from People to People (Dapp) Malawi’s Mikolongwe Vocational School. At the skills development centre, the Technical, Entrepreneurial and Vocational Education and Training Authority (Teveta) provides a three-month course in tinsmithing.
“I want to see the youth being empowered to make a breakthrough in their lives,” he says.
The years Banda spent training his peers in making basins, buckets and pots awakened him to numerous opportunities in the construction industry.
In 2013, he enrolled for a three-year training in bricklaying at Mikolongwe. He did his internship at the school and rose to become the head bricklayer during the construction of the school’s assembly hall before he obtained a Grade 1 certificate.
His experience gave him a solid footing on the new career path
He narrates: “After completing the training, I started some building projects on my own and went to construct three houses in Chigumula, a leafy suburb in Blantyre City.
“I then joined Terrastone Company in Lilongwe as a general bricklayer. I took part in building the National Cancer Treatment Centre at Kamuzu Central Hospital. Currently, we are constructing Malawi Bureau of Standards offices near Trade Fair Grounds in Blantyre. It’s an imposing complex noticeable from a distance.”
At the new construction site, Banda leads a workforce of about 25 masons finalising the rooftop.
“Through determination and willingness to learn new ways of building, I was chosen to be an assistant foreman in 2017. Through the work of my hands, I provide for my family and send my two sons to school,” he brags.
Banda prefers bricklaying to tinsmithing, saying building works fetch more money.
He has been training the youth in his community in tinsmithing.
“I paid fees for my secondary school education using my talent. I believe anyone can do the same. It’s a matter of training and determination.”
Banda plans to assemble a committed team of builders and form a construction company to create jobs for the youth, who dominate the country’s population.
The 2018 census indicates that almost 51 percent of the country’s population is under the age of 18, increasing the demand for employment. However, International Labour Organisation reports that over a quarter of the youth of employable age are unemployed.
Dapp Malawi trains the youth to become productive citizens, tapping their potential to contribute to the country’s economic development. The vocation training centre offers both formal and informal skills training in fashion and design, shoe-making, bricklaying, renewable energy and electrical installation, metal fabrication, agriculture, business administration and plumbing.
“The purpose of all these is to make the youth reliable and self-reliant,” says Mikolongwe deputy principal Zachariah Viana. “If one has a skill, no one can take it away from them. If the youth learn craftsmanship, our society will be a better place because they will have something to rely on economically.”
Banda says the road to success is team work in every job.
“The training we got equipped us not only with skills but also the initiative to learn fast, do more, perform better and continue to learn and value each other in the process,” he explains.
The country has few technical colleges and vocational training centres for its growing youthful population.
Those from poor background face poverty and unemployment induced by lack of skills because they cannot afford instruction in private training centres.
To them, informal apprenticeship becomes handy, increasing their chances to get employment or to employ themselves.
Banda personifies that with determination, the informal apprentices can make it.
Ensuring that every child attains life-long learning and relevant skills is part of the global push to end poverty by 2030.
Sustainable Development Goal four (SDG4) promotes life-long learning opportunities for all. It stipulates that by 2013, countries should ensure that both men and women access affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education.
The country needs to accelerate its strides towards increasing the number of youth and adults with relevant skills for employment and entrepreneurship. n