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Skills training builds capacity and hope among youths in Malawi

Stanley Banda is a 29 year old graduate of DAPP Malawi’s Mikolongwe Vocational School. Growing up as a young boy in the rural area, Stanley was fascinated by the industrious people who provided for their families daily, using their own craftsmanship. His passion led him to develop an interest in acquiring a skill to support his life.

Skills training builds capacity and hope among youths in Malawi

Malawi has a young population with an average age of 17 years, according to the United Nations Capital Development Fund YouthStart Global, Malawi Country Report of 2016. The increasing population has expanded the demand for employment creation, which is little to non-existent in Malawi.

Despite the odds staked against him, Stanley learned tinsmith as a teenager through mentorship from one of the village practitioners. Slowly, he started to gain some experience and he went on to create a name through his reputation. Over three years, he worked as an instructor in an informal skills training initiative lead by DAPP Malawi’s Mikolongwe Vocational School. The TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training - is education and training which provides knowledge and skills for employment) supported project provided 3 months short-courses in tinsmith to youth. Seeing many youths being empowered to make a break in their life was both humbling and liberating to Stanley.

DAPP Malawi is creating opportunities for youth to become productive in their lives and thus tapping on their potential to contribute to economic development of Malawi by offering vocational skills training courses. The school offers both formal and informal skills training in fashion and design, shoe-making, brick-laying, renewable energy and electrical installation, metal fabrication, agriculture, business administration and plumbing.

During the three years Stanley spent training youths in tinsmith, he got inspired by the many opportunities in the construction industry. In 2013, he enrolled for a three-year training as a Brick-layer at Mikolongwe Vocational School. He was chosen to do internship at the school and his leadership skills helped him to rise up the ladder and he ended up being the Head Brick-layer during the construction of the school’s assembly hall. He graduated with a grade 1 certificate and the wealth of practical experience helped him to have a strong footing in his newly established profession.

Skills training builds capacity and hope among youths in Malawi

“Soon after school I started to do some projects on my own and went on to construct 3 houses in the leafy suburb of Chigumula in Blanytre city in Malawi. I then joined Terrastone company in Lilongwe where I was part of building the cancer hospital at Kamuzu Central hospital. Currently, I am working on a Terrastone company project which is building the Malawi Bureau of Standards, an imposing government complex noticeable from a distance,” says Stanley.

At the new government complex, he started as a general brick-layer and rose through the ranks. As of now he is responsible for finalizing the roof-top where he leads a workforce of more than 25 masons. “I came as a bricklayer, but because of my determination to learn new ways of building and improving on them, I was chosen to be an assistant foreman in 2017. Now I am in charge of most of my work mates’ work. I have now been given the lead to finish the roofing,” he says.

Together with his school-mates they know team-work is fundamental in achieving success, thus among his work mates there are some former students from Mikolongwe Vocational School. When asked why he chose to have some of his classmates, he mentioned something profound. “The training we got equipped us not only with skills in brick-laying but helped us to use self initiative as we learn fast, perform much better and in the process we continuously learn and value each other.”

The productive capacity Stanley acquired has seen him providing for his family, sending his two sons to school and bringing food to his table. “I see myself very lucky as bricklaying is fetching me more money compared to being a tinsmith. I am able to take care of my family, pay for my children’s school fees and buy school uniforms,” he said with a broad smile.

As millions of youths in Malawi are finding it difficult to get by, Stanley has some words of advice which are full of hope and focus. “My advice to my fellow youth is that let us make use of the skills that God gave us. There is always something that you are passionate about, sharpen the way you do it and do it well.”

Stanley dreams of forming his own construction company in the future and to one day teach his children the skills he acquired so they can provide for themselves. He says, “My plan is to assemble a committed team of builders and form a company. I see myself running a successful construction company in the future and creating economic opportunities for others.”