The vocation centre to turn into a STEKA Village
* One student is the community’s Village Head Kampaka enrolled in design & tailoring and acting as role model for the youths
* The institution is equipped with two very spacious blocks of classrooms and offices and 5.5kw solar power
* To also offer other skills soon such as carpentry; motor vehicle mechanics; welding; bakery and modern agriculture
* An expert teaches the trainees entrepreneurship skills for them to know how to do business utilizing the talent learnt
* More plans include building a hostel, a child care institute and a stately sports stadium
By Duncan Mlanjira
Step-Kids Awareness (STEKA), a family home for very vulnerable children rescued from living alone on the streets of Blantyre or from abusive situations, has built a stately skills vocational training centre in Lirangwe, that also offers its free services to communities sorrounding it.
Godknows Maseko, founder of the non-governmental organization (NGO) — registered under Child Reform and Development Assistance sector — has big plans for the centre that include building a hostel, a child care institute and a stately sports stadium with potential to attract the country’s high profile matches and activities.
For the moment, the centre has two intakes two courses — designing & tailoring and beautician skills — of students coming from the sorrounding community of Kampaka Village, T/A Kapeni, whose Village Head Kampaka herself as one of the tailoring training students.
Maseko said he felt so proud when Village Head Kampaka expressed interest to be enrolled as well for tailoring, saying he felt obliged to accept because she was to become a role model for the youths in her village to take up skills training for their social economic development.
“When she is here, she humbles herself as a trainee but the young students treats her with reverence because of the passion she attaches her training here,” Maseko said.
On her part, Village Head Kampaka said it was an honour when she was accepted to be part of the training, saying even chiefs needed to have their own source of income and she chose design & tailoring.
Some of the trainees learnt of the free services being offered from outside Blantyre District, who were also roped in — some from Zomba, Mulanje and Mdeka with more applications coming elsewhere to be considered for the next intake.
Maseko said his plans for the institution — that is equipped with two very spacious blocks of classrooms and offices; 5.5kw solar power; 10,000ltr water tank reservoir and a special structure to house videography training — is to also offer skills such as carpentry; motor vehicle mechanics; welding; bakery and modern agriculture (through greenhouse effect).
“We also have an expert, MacMillan Kholomana, who teaches the trainees entrepreneurship skills for them to know how to do business utilizing the talent learnt here,” Maseko said.
“Upon graduation, they will be given some equipment — at this stage sewing machines as well as starter capital. As you saw, we also train beauticians, who will also be offered equipment of their trade plus starter up capital.
“As for the other elderly people of the sorrounding communities of Kampaka Village — including chiefs and parents of the students — we have set up a village bank community in which, apart from pooling money together to be lending each other, we teach them how to invest from the loans they take.
“We want to economically empower the communities by training them on how they can do the business they have chosen and how they can prudently sustain it.”
For the proposed stadium, Maseko — who comes from the same community — said Lirangwe is deprived of excellent social amenities and having observed that many people travel long distances to Blantyre or Balaka to watch high profile football matches, he was inspired to try and bring such matches closer.
“The plans are to construct a modern stadium that can even accommodate a top match such as that of Mighty Wanderers against Nyasa Big Bullets.
“The money to be realised from such matches can sustain the stadium management and even fund construction of other in-door sporting disciplines such as netball, basketball and volleyball — or even tennis.
“God willing, these are the plans we have that also include increasing the solar power we have for the other vocational skills training.”
He also highlighted that they initially built a tower to place the solar panels and realised its potential, he turned it into a room to train the youths in videography, saying many aspiring music artists need such experts to capture their music videos while others can attract employment opportunities with TV stations.
Founded in 2007 by Godknows and his wife Helen, STEKA’s goal was to remove children from the streets to protect them from abuse they faced and the poverty they lived with on the streets of Malawi.
STEKA children are given an education ensuring that girls receive an equal education and opportunities as the boys.
Maseko emphasises that STEKA is not an ‘orphanage’ nor an ‘institution’ but a loving family, saying the children are brought by social services or the police and once they indicate their intention to staying for good, they make sure that all their new children who don’t know their biological parents adopt their surname of Maseko.
“They call us mum and dad and for children still in contact with biological parents, we become aunt and uncle. As a family, we all work together to support each other with everyone helping with chores and older children helping support the little ones.”
Feeding, clothing and educating such a large family isn’t easy, but the resourceful STEKA family — that operates with nine trustees and full-time staff members who work as volunteers — runs a variety of enterprises to bring in funds.
Helen is Montessori trained and, assisted by volunteers, runs a nursery school in the mornings when STEKA children go to school. They also raise chickens and run tailoring, upholstery and tourism initiatives to help sustain their STEKA home at Nyambadwe in Blantyre.
All the children are brought up to value their rights and themselves; in particular girls’ rights to equality and to resist early marriage.
Godknows — having escaped from a life on the streets — understands how to transform things for these children, thus he wants to build them more sustainable futures by developing the land he bought at Lirangwe as a STEKA village — consisting of workshops to teach life-changing vocational skills and facilities to provide psychosocial support.
It will also focus on empowering young people to get their voices heard in a youth forum aimed at lobbying for marginalized children’s rights in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child — encapsulating many of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The STEKA Village is being created courtesy of kind donors that include Portabell Rotary Club that donated one of the two blocks of classrooms and offices while the other was by Magdalena under St. Johns Parish — both from Edinburgh in Scotland.
Maseko said the sewing machines were donated by friends of STEKA in Scotland and all tools and materials for hair dressing and beauty training were donated by a hair dressing and beauty parlour called Charie Miller from Scotland.