Investing in the education of Malawian children is one major scheme that the government of the Republic of Malawi and other various stakeholders in the sector are tirelessly undertaking. Perhaps, this is in the realization of James Coleman’s concept of ‘Social Capital’ and the need to invest in the youths to guarantee a better tomorrow. To be frank, Malawi’s leaders have time and again employed the now overused axiom that ‘the youth are the leaders of tomorrow’. They really know the full essence of it so much so that one prominent leader once thought using only one time indicator in the truism was not enough and naively called the youth ‘future leaders of tomorrow’, there by distorting its positive meaning. Nevertheless, their commitment in ensuring that the youth are acquiring some education is somehow evident and goes without saying. Although Malawi is ranked among the least developed countries, it tries hard to endow its education sector despite its mean economic resources. The focal point I am driving at is: millions of Kwachas are spent on educating them so that they should do what with their academic knowledge?
If leaders and policy makers were to be serious and ponder on answering such a question, no ill intentioned individuals will continue thwarting their intended goal. This is because, in as far as their statements go, it seems the attempts to educate the youths are beyond mere rhetoric. If that is the case, then maybe someone out there is busy defeating their purpose or they have not set their priorities right. I mean, they do not think or believe that spending a lot of money and resources to get some academic knowledge and papers is an end in itself. There is need for the country to reap and benefit the fruition of its initiative. After their successful academic voyage, the young and sophisticated individuals need to start offering their services in various sectors so as to develop the country and this is not the case. This simply begs another question: ‘whose problem is it then?’
If we are to look at this conundrum using a categorical syllogism technique, the youths will be nowhere near our premises. Thus, a deductive reasoning will leave us with two culprits and among them could be the government. As it has already been mentioned earlier, addressing this challenge requires the government and other concerned sectors to set their priorities right.
Somehow, it seems barbaric to point a finger at something that one feels is not right without proposing what is to be done instead.
I will firstly say that our graduates from various academic institutions need to be employed after their successful completion of their studies. This is the ideal way to go and it is obvious for we do not need renowned geographer to tell us that Kilimanjaro is bigger than Zomba Mountain.
There are several challenges they face to find employment and yet the government, which is the biggest employer in the country, spent huge sums of money on them starting from their free primary education up to their tertiary studies. However, employment opportunities are available but the issue of experience is the prohibiting factor. It is very sad to note that it is the very same government which starts using the ‘killer clause‘in its vacancy advertisements which read: All applicants should at least have 7 years work experience.
How does the government expect someone it was spending money on his or her education a few months before to have the so called work experience? The aforementioned clause in many vacancy advertisements is an enemy of all graduates. As such, they spend a lot of years doing nothing and we cannot speculate on the aftermath of it but maybe a neurosurgeon can assist. Furthermore, I am not trying to imply or evoke a repetition of the 2011 Egyptian saga but I would rather propose or set an agenda for possible ingenious solutions.
There are also a lot of companies that always want experienced people to fill in various vacant positions within their systems or beef up their human resource. Sadly, the companies also mention the issue of experience with an addition of age requirement. This seems as if they are looking for non-Malawians for such young people with a work experience they prescribe are not many or simply not available in this country. Never the less, there might be a few who were lucky after graduating and this also means that the very same faces shift from one employment to another. Such companies do not take on board interns from our colleges. They simply rely on others to give someone the work experience and some additional job training and that is when they come out from their cocoon and go out on a poaching spree. Thus, most institutions and organisations are also sharing the mindset hence the problem is also becoming big.
This point leads me to commend Youth Net and Counselling (YONECO). Since 2003, YONECO has been hosting interns. In its strategic plan, youth internship programme was adopted as a strategy to improve knowledge and skills for youth development. So far, the programme has reached out to over 90 interns from local academic institutions like Chancellor College, Natural Resources of tCollege, Catholic University of Malawi and Development Management Institute (DMI) amongst others. The programme has also reached close to 30 interns from various countries outside Malawi.
Other institutions, organizations and government departments need to borrow a leaf from such pacesetters. The government needs also to look at the problem of youth unemployment with a sober mind and put in place other workable means to rectify it. The mechanisms are many and to me they seem to be numerous. The government and stakeholders need to go back to their boardrooms and try to answer the question: we are educating the youth, then what should happen to them and the country after completion of their studies? Otherwise it is counterproductive to spend money on ensuring that the youth have gained academic knowledge just for the sake of it.