From nothing to a skilled carpenter
“What to do after my secondary school?” was the question that bothered Funiro, a young man in his early 20s. To some, the immediate and most obvious answer to that question would be “go to college”. However, to Funiro it was not as simple as that. Funiro lives deep in one of the villages of Dowa district, where education for most youths ends with the completion of secondary school. Many of them do not even make it past primary school. The reason is simple – financial difficulties. Like most people in such villages, college education is as expensive as an ounce of gold.
So for Funiro it was either he searched for a scholarship opportunity to pursue tertiary education or he stayed home and look for employment. But seeking employment was not an option because, with a secondary school education qualification, it would be extremely difficult for Funiro to acquire a decent job. The young man was caught between a rock and a hard place.
“A year after I finished my secondary school, I had nowhere to go.” Funiro explained. The situation worried him. When the Malawi government advertised for places in its public vocational training institutions, Funiro thought his problem was rectified. With high hopes, he applied for a place but his expectations turned to sour disappointment when he was not successful.
“I felt deeply hurt because my chances of achieving a higher qualification were completely blown away.” He confided. Funiro’s failure to make it to a public training centre is not strange news. Malawi’s public vocational training colleges can only accommodate a mere 3 percent of secondary school graduates per year. Funiro is among the myriads of young people who are left out of these technical colleges every year and, worse, cannot afford the high tuitions in privately run vocational training institutions.
“That was it. I told myself that it was the end.” Funiro continued but really it was not the end. In 2015, a year later, we opened our vocational training centre and Funiro was among the first intake of our Carpentry course. His excitement was untold. His dream was pushed to reality. Unlike other vocational training institutions, our tuition – which we simply call a commitment fee – is heavily subsidized, meaning that Funiro was guaranteed to complete his course without the risk of dropping out due to financial limitations.
Funiro graduated in 2015 and his welfare gradually started transforming.
“At first, I depended on my parents for everything.” He explained. “It was not right because I supposed to be the one caring for them and not the other way round.” Funiro’s parents are aged and providing for Funiro’s needs was a huge challenge to them. But things changed. Funiro set up a small bench at his home and begun making furniture. Slowly, people started approaching him for carpentry products and he could now generate his own income. On average, he receives five to seven customers every day. Funiro considers this a triumph since there are other well established carpenters within and around his community who have been in the trade longer than him.
“Just close to where I live, we have about five carpenters and over 14 more in the neighbouring villages but customers still travel all the way from these areas to seek my services. This shows that they trust my services.” Funiro boasted, saying that such is the case because he displays unique skills in his work. Recently there was a church construction project in his village and he received an order to supply doors for the building.
From the income Funiro makes, he helps his parents meet their household needs. He even bought them fertilizer and seeds for their maize garden. This is not a minor feat since fertilizer is one of the most expensive farm inputs in Malawi and only those with a stable income can afford it.
Funiro’s display of carpentry skills is not only appealing to customers, it also motivating others to join the trade. He is now a role model to young people in his community. One of his neighbours was so inspired by his work that he expressed interest to learn carpentry. And Funiro has become his ‘private’ instructor.
Funiro said this is his way of ‘giving back to his community’ and he feels a sense of achievement. And so do we.
As There is Hope, our goal is to offer young adults skills in a local trade and create a bridge that will eventually rescue them from the shackles of poverty.