Tapping from youth volunteerism spirit

By graduating from Chancellor College with a strong credit in Media for Development, 26-year-old, Mphatso Zidana never thought of staying idle for years without securing any employment.

For him, being a graduate was an encouraging point that he would get a job easily. However, Zidana forgot that the media market is saturated and has no outlets warranting comfortable life as easy as ABC.

His colleagues who had just reached the Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) or just had certificate and diploma professional qualifications mocked him.

“They said what was the essence of graduating, when one cannot even secure a decent employment,” Zidana recalls.

Zidana spent a year at home. It is his idleness at home that forced him to venture into youth volunteerism with Advancing Girls Education in Africa (Agea) after another one with Active Youth for Social Enhancement (Ayise) organisation in Blantyre.

The decision was deemed contrary to journalistic ambition because Agea looks into bursaries of a girl-child and life skills outreach projects in Zomba City, Mulanje and Mangochi districts.

“I did voluntary work on projects under Agea organisation. I also did the same with Ayise. My passion from being an employee to a volunteer grew extremely in that I just wanted to serve the communities. However, little did I know that I was equipped with more skills,” says Zidana.

His voluntary roles enabled him to get experience in handling peer pressure, facilitate meetings, being part of decision making and public speaking. “My youthful mindset was changed to being a self-accomplished team leader,” he says.

Based on this, Zidana was taken into the system of Agea on permanent basis. This means while youths desire to get top decision-making positions, nothing comes easy as experienced by Zidana, who is now working as a programmes coordinator for the organisation.

Although most youths claim to be deprived of jobs due to lack of experience, job creation remains a problem among the youth. The situation between 2009 and to date was exacerbated by forex, fuel and power blackouts as they scared potential investors.

Research by the Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU) shows that on average, less than 1 000 Malawians got decent jobs last year. Contractual jobs are estimated to have slightly gone above 7 000 despite that Malawi’s target was to create 20 000 jobs.

Forex and fuel crises, according to MCTU, cost 4 000 workers their jobs, a reason enough for government to promote volunteerism for skills development in youths. The same happened during the Malawi Young Pioneers (MYP) days, when most youths did voluntary tasks while getting experience and contributing to the development of the country.

But the dawn of post independence democracy led to the dissolution of the MYP and Youth Week leaving the youths without any concept of volunteerism. However, government in the new enacted National Youth Policy ponders over revitalising aspect of volunteerism.

Already, a drafted concept paper by the Ministry of Youth and Sports observes that youth volunteering bridges the gap between unemployment and employment. The paper notes that volunteerism is a spirit that instils in them the initiative to assist people in their communities by pushing for development agendas.

To drive the point home, youths who have once been volunteers have expressed satisfaction with being a volunteer in that it exposed them to different networks of people who have appreciated their talents and skills and connected them to other opportunities in life.

Nini Sulamoyo Banda, principal youth officer responsible for participation in the Youth and Sports Ministry says the concept foresees youths gaining experience required by employing bodies.

“A National Volunteer Scheme is being planned as a viable intervention in the Ministry of Youth and Sports. At the moment, there are sector working groups in place and the ministry is a part of one and as such, there is sectoral strategic planning and harmonising of activities,” she says.

With former UN secretary general Kofi Annan and the current Ban ki-Moon describing volunteerism as the best way to achieving the various Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015, Malawi is almost closer to implementing the concept.

This is in line with calls from youth activists that as Malawi joins the rest of the world in celebrating the International Youth Day next week under the theme ‘Building a Better World- Partnering With Youth’ government should set the pace in championing the voluntary spirit.

Youth activist Rodgers Siula thinks in the absence of a policy, youth participation and contribution to nation development as well as a democratic system growth is limited.

“Simply put, millions of youngsters in the country are resource-starved to achieve academic, entrepreneurship and professional goals,” he notes.

Banda argues youths should develop the spirit of volunteerism and understand what it means to serve others without thinking of monetary gain.

“If at all some traces of volunteerism spirit exists among youth, it may be there, but mostly for their own personal benefit in the name of poverty alleviation,” she alludes.

As it stands Malawi has had and continues to have volunteers from various countries such as the northern hemisphere such as Voluntary Service Overseas-VSO (UK); American Peace Corps (USA); Japanese International Cooperation Agency-Jica (Japan); volunteers through World University Service Council-WUSC (Canada); and United Nations (UN) volunteers.

This is enough reason youths want a participatory and volunteerism approach if they are to have more skills to the betterment of the nation and would-be employers.


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