The Malawi Government, through the Minister of Education, Science and Technology, has reaffirmed its commitment to producing high skilled and talented labour force to spur social and economic development of the nation.
Secretary for Education, Mrs Chikondano Mussa, made the commitment in a statement issued as part of the activities to commemorate this year's 'World Labour Day', which falls on June 6 every year.
Mussa stated that her ministry has a pivotal role in producing talented and skilled labour force as it develops the critical human capital that the country requires to implement the Malawi 2063 agenda, starting with the 1st Implementation Plan (MIP-1).
She said, among others, that the ministry is training enough teachers who, in turn, deliver the curriculum at all levels of the education system.
"We train teachers so that once they are hired by either government or private sector, they are able to impart, through innovative techniques, the desired skills in learners who are a future labour force in line with Malawi 2063 under Enabler number 5 on Human Capital Development.
"We have also ensured that all the eleven Teacher Training Colleges (TTCs) are well resourced by equipping them with adequate training materials and deploying highly skilled tutors," she said.
Mussa disclosed that her ministry has re-introduced technical education in primary schools so that learners begin to attain technical skills at a tender age in order to yield the desired results.
She added that Junior Science, Technology and Innovation (JSTI) Clubs are being established and operationalised, stepwise, starting with 32 primary schools in the country.
In these JSTI Clubs, learners are guided into the innovation pipeline to ideate, design and develop prototypes to solve multifaceted problems identified from the societal challenges including their own exploration to make from scratch some engineering products like electric fans, cars, drones, and FM radios consistent with the aspirations of Malawians for a youth-led knowledge-based economy that enables self-wealth creation.
This is done through innovation garages at the schools with established and operationalised JSTI Clubs. The Ministry, therefore, calls for more partners to join this unique drive for a national roll-out of this initiative in all schools to bring about practical Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education for the present and future economy.
"The re-introduction of technical subjects in primary schools is part of the Ministry's response to the calls to make the curriculum relevant to the needs of the nation, by focusing more on problem solving than merely on describing problems. The nation needs various technical skills and these need to be acquired right from the foundational Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.
"We have allocated time on the timetable for the teaching of these subjects and schools offering the subjects have been properly advised and oriented," she said, adding that for a start, technical subjects have been re-introduced in model schools since most of them already have purposeful infrastructure, which has now been resourced with new equipment.
"We will be rolling out gradually to all schools subject to provision of equipment. We are also in the process of training more technical teachers so that they can handle the subject in our schools," she said.
Mussa also said apart from using the current Ministry's budget to purchase equipment, the Ministry has also received some assistance from TEVETA.
At secondary level, a total of 26 subjects is offered in order to open up a range of skills which reflect local needs and contribute to national development.
"The purpose of secondary school education is to prepare students for employment in both formal and informal sector and to prepare them for further studies in various skills of their need," Mussa explained.
According to Mussa, secondary education is the bedrock of skilled labour in Malawi, saying "The current curriculum's main focus is on skills development e.g. Woodwork, Metal work, Technical Drawing, Home economics, Clothing and Textile, Creative Arts and Performing Arts."
In tertiary and higher education, Mussa indicated that the Ministry, through the Higher Education Institutions, is reviewing the curriculum with involvement of the industry in order to produce the human capital with the right skillsets as required by the industry and for self-employment.
She disclosed that the Ministry has also embarked on massive infrastructure development in the universities through construction of Skills labs, Design Studios, Science Parks, Unipods, Makerspaces, FabLabs, Innovation Garages, Technology Transfer Offices, Libraries, hostels, as well as administration and office spaces. This has been possible through a number of funding avenues including Government funding under the Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP), Skills for a Vibrant Economy (SAVE) Project, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangements, just to mention a few.
The Secretary for Education added that it is envisaged that through these initiatives, Malawi will have a highly trained and skilled labour force that is matched with the labour market for the realization of the country's vision of becoming an industrialized upper middle income economy by the year 2063.
The Ministry's initiatives are in line with the expectations of the public and general populace, as stated by the Executive Director for the Civil Society Education Coalition, Benedicto Kondowe, when he said "It is worrisome that we are still offering programs at tertiary level that have no employment opportunity since they are essentially mismatched to the labour market that keeps on re-inventing itself".
On employment and economic opportunities for graduates, Mr Kondowe added that "Government should mobilise the private sector to provide soft loans to those who are skilled in different areas. There is a greater need to link skills to financial opportunities," he concluded. This is where Government programmes and initiatives such as NEEF come in.
In her concluding remarks, the Secretary for Education indicated that the Ministry will continue to liaise with, and lobby sister MDAs and the private sector for more programmes and initiatives to ensure that every graduate is participating in the economic activities for the achievement of the country's development plan. *#Education Is Key.