By Duncan Mlanjira
Ministry of Youth & Sports is constructing four state-of-the-art community vocational training colleges in Neno, Karonga, Nkhotakota and Phalombe — whose official ground breaking was commissioned by Minister Ulemu Msungama on Saturday at Neno Boma.
The project, funded through a MK2 billion loan and grant from the African Development Bank, is set to uplift the faces of the four communities — Ngara in Karonga, Mbandira in Nkhotakota, Naminjiya in Phalombe and at the Neno Boma.
In his vote of thanks after appreciating the artistic impression of the projects’ blue prints, Neno District Council deputy chairperson, Councillor Mark Ngwangwa took the opportunity to ask the Minister if he could also relay to the authorities the need to upgrade dusty stretch of the road to the Boma that is in total disrepair in order to match with the beauty of the structure the area will be provided with.
The 42km stretch is tarred half way from the junction along the road to Mwanza and it takes to close to one and a half hours mostly because of the bad state of the dusty stretch.
Transportation is a huge challenge as the few buses that are available, operate according to schedule — twice a day and the alternative mode of travel are bicycle taxis (kabaza), whose cost is a staggering K4,000 from the junction along the Mwanza Road.
Councillor Ngwangwa said the people face deep challenges during rainy seasons to transport their farm produce as the dusty party of the road becomes impassable.
“We therefore make a humble appeal if the road could be tarred up to the Boma to ease our transportation challenges,” he said.
“This technical centre is not only going to offer special entrepreneurship skills to our youths but will also beautify our area as we have seen from the pictures presented by the contractor.
“We the people of Neno are very grateful and appreciative of government’s effort to make technical and business skills accessible to our youths at such a local level,” he said.
Minister Msungama has already visited the other sites in Ngala, Mbandira and Naminjiya and at Neno he unveiled the foundation stone as the official commencement of the enterprising projects.
He assured the people who gathered at the Neno Intergrated Youth Centre, which was formerly offering vocational skills but was ran down into disrepair, that the project is Government’s development aspirations as outlined in the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy III (2017-2022).
“It is the Government’s wish to tackle the problem of poverty which affects the majority of the country’s population — the youths — which is at 51% a from the 2018 Housing and Population Census,” Msungama said.
“The high youthful population, therefore, explains why the problem of high unemployment in Malawi heavily affects the largest segment of the population.”
He explained that the projects are under the Ministry’s Jobs for Youth (J4Y), that was formulated in 2016 aiming at dealing with the unemployment problem faced by the youth — one of which is the lack of entrepreneurship mind-set, limited access to technical and business skills and lack of mentorship and business advisory services.
“Young people fail to enrol in technical and vocational skills training institutions due to limited spaces and trades on offer among other things.
“The expansion of infrastructure is to ensure that skills training institutions have the ability to provide an array of skills training opportunities and intake is increased resulting in a lot of young people having access to such opportunities.”
He pledged that the four centres will offer training opportunities such as small scale mining, manufacturing (textile and designing), information and communication technology (ICT) and specialized agriculture skills.
The training approaches of these training centres will be hands-on, whose focus will be on practical rather than merely theory for the sake of passing examinations.
The centres are also expected to take a proactive stand in linking the trained youth to other organizations that can further facilitate the nurturing of their skills.
“This will be either through offering additional practical opportunities on temporal or permanent basis or offering loans for business establishment.
“I strongly believe that if training institutions do a good job in the skills development of the country’s youth, the contribution to the 1 million jobs creation agenda of the Tonse Government will be huge and visible.
“The creation of these jobs is a responsibility for everyone and the initiative through these training institutions should be one of them.”
He asked the contractor, Mangalasi Construction Limited, to deliver what has been promised from the blue print and to complete the project within the 10-months period stated.
The contractor said they will focus on offering various subcontractor jobs to the members of the communities from each of the four projects in order to economically empower the locals.
The high-profile ground breaking ceremony was attended by Secretary to the Youth & Sports Ministry, Oliver Kumbambe (former Malawi Police Inspector General); Secretary to Labour Dickson Chunga; Neno District Council Chief Administrative Officer Mlombwa among several others.
Kumbambe also reminded the contractor that the government shall not entertain any compromise to the standards that have been promised through the blue prints that won them the bid to construct the four community technical colleges.