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The village hero

His carpentry bench is located deep in the rural area, in a tiny village about a 20-minute drive from the main road. It is in the middle of nowhere, far from the glamour and glory of modern life and where the majority of the villagers depend on subsistence farming to pull through life. His bench is surrounded by about seven small huts roofed with grass, plastered with mud and windowless. The bench was set up under the shade of a large tree overlooking a small house where he and his two brothers stay.

Welcome to Frank’s carpentry business place. This is the bench that brings Frank income each day and lets him help his mother and father to provide meals for the family. This small bench is what has been feeding him for the past three years. It is Frank’s second wonder besides a small garden where he grows vegetables for sale. Frank is an alumnus of our vocational training programme.

What prompted him to consider enrolling in a technical vocational school is simple – ambition to do become economically independent. Growing up in the village Frank said that he understood that he would be stuck in a poverty loop if he did not learn a skill that would bring him income. Besides that, Frank did not want to keep relying on his parents for basically everything. His dream was to be different from the rest of his fellow young men in the village who had a dependency syndrome on their parents.

“I didn’t want to become that person who is a burden to the parents. I see many young men here in the village doing that. I wanted to be different,” he explained. Unfortunately, the dependency syndrome among the rural youth is due to the high levels of youth unemployment in the villages. This has been caused due to a dwindling technical skill base among the young people.

Frank’s ambitions grew strong when he completed his secondary school education and did not attain enough grades to make it to college. But still, even if he had made it to university, Frank’s parents could not afford the exorbitant university tuition fees.  So, that option was off the table.

His ambition to learn a technical skill saw Frank training as an apprentice under one of the seasoned carpenters in the village. For a year, he worked hard to become the best carpenter but he still was not satisfied. The person who was training Frank was not a qualified Carpenter. He also had simply learned the skill from someone else. However, although Frank knew he had to register for formal training at a certified vocational training school, he could not since such schools are costly. Frank felt stagnated until his friend tipped him about our vocational training programme whose fees was highly subsidized and very affordable to the financially deprived youth like Frank.

That was how Frank found himself in the 2018 class of our carpentry course. Frank went straight to work after completing his training later that year. With some money that he had been saving and bought some basic tools to get started. Within months, the bench had started to put a smile on his face.

“The difference was almost immediate,” he said “I began assisting my parents to pay fees for my two brothers who are in secondary school. This is something I never thought I could do. I was happy. My parents were struggling to pay their school fees and I had relieved them of a huge weight.” Although Frank is running his business in a village away from the main trading centre where the demand is high, he has still managed to garner a loyal customer base. His work is trusted mainly because people know that he is qualified, unlike fellow carpenters who never went to a formal school. That alone sets Frank apart from the rest and brings him money on a daily basis.

“You see that bed,” Frank beamed pointing to a beautiful bed that he had just finished applying brown vanish on “That bed has already been bought and I have 3 new orders to make.” The bed cost MK30,000, meaning that Frank would pocket an additional MK90,000 from the new orders.

Frank’s new business is also supplementing his small garden farming. Being from a family tree of subsistence farmers, Frank can now ably purchase farm inputs like herbicides and fertilizer to boost his yields which in turn helps him to earn good profits. It is those same profits that Frank is gradually pushing the young man towards the financial independence that he has been dreaming about for so long. Frank is also trying to replicate the training he got in his two siblings. He has already started teaching them the basics of carpentry and he is pleased with the progress he is making. It is only a matter of time before they too start earning their own income.

“So far, so good,” Frank smiled. His journey to beat poverty has just begun.