Three women and two young men from various communities across Malawi shared the circumstances they overcame to end up graduates under the European Union funded program - Skills and Technical Education Program (STEP). This was at the 4th STEP graduation ceremony held on 14 February 2020 at Sam’s Village in Chigonthi Village of TA M’bang’ombe in Lilongwe where 265 students are imparted with technical education and skills by trainers from African Vision Malawi, also known as the Landirani Trust, and certified by TEVETA.
The fresh STEP graduates shared vivid images of deeply entrenched challenges that leave women so vulnerable that they had a hard time deciding whether to survive and fight or surrender to death and probably escape from pain, humiliation, despair and sadness. For the young men, their stories were not any different having experienced loneliness, hopelessness and despair that comes with being orphaned at a young age and having to embrace adulthood in an instant.
But for all, the STEP Program has brought renewed hope in making their once distant dreams come true by empowering them to overcome their circumstances and by bringing out their entrepreneurial gifts, building their resilience to poverty and giving them the much needed push to begin a new journey in life with confidence.
Amilida (24 years) dropped out of school in Form 2 and is a single parent and orphan. She has two siblings to take care of. She is afraid of living as the only adult in her grass thatched house. She has survived being raped on several occasions and her dream is to build a better house to keep her safe and to look after her children. She says, “With my tailoring skills, I shall be able to raise the funds I need to build a stronger house for my family and to pay school fees for my siblings. I am now in a better place to fulfil this dream.”
Nezia (30 years) says, “I have always felt like life was unfair to me. I grew up as an orphan and once I got married, I thought that together with my husband we could make it, but he died and left me with 5 children to look after. I even contemplated running away and taking my life, but who would look after my children if I am gone? There was little hope, but after receiving a bursary to learn bicycle repair, I know this extra skill will sustain me. My children will be okay eventually.”
Trizer (21 years) has battled with severe ulcers for as long as she can remember. The separation of her parents have not made her situation any better and she has found herself living with her grandmother and has to fend for the family after dropping out of school in Form 4. Her dream of becoming a motorbike mechanic has come true after her STEP graduation. She says, “I chose my area of training carefully because of the numerous motorbikes in Masiye trading centre where I come from. There are few mechanics there and as a woman, I shall be the first one there. The market is already there, I only needed the skills. I will soon be making enough money to treat my ulcers and take care of my grandmother who is sickly. I am now set and thank the European Union, UNESCO and Landirani Trust for sponsoring me to become self-reliant.”
Yohanne (27 years) was orphaned at a young age and had to drop out of school in Form 4 due to lack of school fees. As the head of the home, his dreams and ambitions to look after the family have been in starting a bakery. This dream was made true under the STEP and erased the suicidal thoughts he contemplated because of the burden of responsibility he had before receiving a bursary to be trained to be proficient in his dream job.
Poster (23 years) is yet another orphan with a bubbly attitude and a never-give-up personality. In spite having to look after 2 other children and living with relatives, he was always set his mind on becoming a professional carpenter. He is looking forward to receiving the starter-kit of tools to give him the much needed push as be embarks on his dream trade. “The future is bright,” he confidently says.
Despite these challenges, these young Malawians have renewed hope to overcome their circumstances, thanks to the partnership with the institutions that have supported the STEP Program and the opportunities it has provided for vulnerable youths.
This specific project is part of the European Union wider support to the TEVET sector in Malawi through the STEP Program. It provided over 140 bursaries over a period of 18 months for the Landirani Trust to train vulnerable youths of between 16 and 32 years in carpentry and joinery, basic electronics, tailoring, solar installation and maintenance, earth building, tin-smithing and motorbike mechanics.
The bursaries are offered to adult orphans, single parents, people with disabilities and other conditions that make them vulnerable. This partnership, with technical/professional support from the Government of Malawi’s Technical, Entrepreneurial and Vocational Education and Training Authority (TEVETA), is expected to bring economic change to the beneficiaries. Each of them will present a business plan to the Landirani Trust and receive some start-up capital. We wish them all the best.