The Young Solar Technologist
“I am now able to take care of my needs, as well as my sister’s—my family’s…”
Some individuals view vocational training as a substitute for formal education. According to unpopular belief, it is intended for students who are either unable to continue their education beyond secondary school or who have dropped out of both primary and secondary school. This was one of the general findings that we made when we had focus group talks as part of this month’s awareness campaigns for the intake of informal training from July to December 2023. Well, mindset change is needed.
Some people, though, have a different perspective. For them skills training is a calling. And it is a noble job. Imagine an accountant preparing the payroll while spending hours sitting on the floor as opposed to a chair. How much pain does she really experience? Wouldn’t the discomfort cause her to calculate the numbers incorrectly? Wouldn’t that sitting posture damage the spinal structures and contribute to recurrent episodes of neck or back pain? Well, Science suggests that this will actually happen. Imagine a CEO of a company walking into a business conference to market his products to new clients or sell his company to potential investors wearing a torn suit that displays his shredded and un-ironed shirt that reveals his chest. What would the financiers think about him? Would you, the customer, purchase his goods or services?
This is where vocational training comes in. It solves real life problems such as these. The accountant needs the carpenter to make their job more comfortable. The tailor is required to present the CEO and his company in a favourable light as “the face” of the company. And that is the beauty of vocational education. As described by one Benjanim Kifuvwe, it is the noble calling.
Benjamin, who was born into a two-person family, lives with his lone sister at the Dzaleka Refugee Camp because their parents both passed away. His mother passed away five years after his father, who passed away in 2015. In 2021, Benjamin and his sister fled the Congo and arrived in Malawi. “After the death of our parents, we went searching for solace and peace, and we found it in Malawi, however life was hard for us in many ways”, says Benjamin. He speaks three languages and understands five: Kiswahili, French, English, Chitumbuka, and Chichewa. Talking to customers of different nationalities shouldn’t be a problem for him in the multicultural Dzaleka Refugee Camp, right? You’re right. Benjamin got employed by an electrical installation company soon after finishing his training. He’s one of the pioneers of our solar photovoltaic training, which commenced in June 2022 under the Light Project which is being funded by the Petr Family though WHH.
By the time Benjamin and her sister fled Congo, he had already finished secondary school and had a certificate. He joined our solar training out of sheer passion, as he loves and lives vocational training. He was enrolled in electrical engineering back in the Congo while he was still doing his secondary school education. Passion. Ambition.
When we spoke to him during his training, he said that he hoped that he would get a job after the training to turn his life around, as by then his family was struggling. “We rely on handouts that are given at the refugee camp for survival right now; the food ratios aren’t even enough for us. Sometimes we sleep on empty stomachs”, said Benjamin.
That was then. This is now. Benjamin’s fortunes have changed for the better. He has a job. He also does piecework. He says that he is now self-reliant, which is our vision. “I am now able to cater for myself as well as for my sister—my family. Other young adults also look up to me. I am their inspiration in the community,” he says. “I thank There Is Hope for changing my livelihood,” he concluded. It is great that we invited Benjamin to the Skill Up workshop that we had with WHH team when we worked on the education model for the project that is being funded by the Bauer Charity through our partner, WHH. Benjamin and his peers (other graduates from TIH) elaborated on the duties of the participant during the training, among them being an ambassador of the vocational training. Well, he already is.