SHAFAQNA – As levels of unemployment among Malawian youth continue to rise, the country’s Muslim community has launched vocational training programs courtesy of Zakat Fund to equip the youth with skills necessary to create an “independent society” for “future leaders” of the southern African nation.
“The level of unemployment among Young people in the country is quite worrying and depressing. The present situation paints a picture that we are deliberately ignoring their welfare,” Mohamed Osman, National Director for Islamic Zakaat Fund (IZF), told OnIslam.net.
“This situation calls for concerted efforts to change this ugly picture. This program has therefore been introduced to create hope and a spirit of self-reliance among the youth.
“Since independence, the youth of Malawi have been considered to be future leaders, but sadly, there have never been much efforts to empower them in this direction. We have therefore been compelled to roll off this initiative in response to the growing needs of the young people,” said Osman.
“Unless, we create business or employment opportunities for the youth, who are in the majority in the country, the future of Malawi is at stake. Therefore, this program is a step in the right direction.”
Osman warned the country was experiencing a rise in moral decadence among the youth because he noted, most of them have “nothing” to do.
“They are engaged in all sorts of things out of boredom and frustration. These courses will therefore distract their focus from engaging in destructive behaviors,” he said.
“Young people are quite vulnerable to numerous challenges, which unless interventions were put in place to empower them, we will be raising an army of a wasted generation,” Osman added.
Malawi is considered a youthful nation, with about 75% of the country’s 16 million population are youth.
Despite the program is an initiative of Zakaat Fund, Osman confirmed it was open to all young people regardless of their religious leanings.
“This initiative is open to all young people, be it Muslims or Christians. Through this program, we are sending out a message that unity in diversity is possible,” he said.
“Unemployment in this country remains a serious social-economic development challenge which is affecting various aspects of life. We have therefore decided to look beyond religious boundaries to address this pressing challenge.”
Since the program was initiated, according to its principal, Henry Kunje, it has garnered massive interest among young people across the country’s religious spectrum.
“We are inundated with applications from both Muslims and Christians wishing to enroll for various courses of their choice. But due to limited space, we can’t enroll all of them at once. Every year, the youth are finishing their academic pursuits, but they can’t get employed. They are getting disillusioned and turning their anger towards those in political leadership,” Kunje told OnIslam.net.
“They have therefore found hope in this initiative to acquire skills which could enable them to stand on their own. They can either get employed or start their own business enterprises. We are therefore doing all what we can to live up to their aspirations and dreams through this program,” said Kunje.
Out-spoken John Kapito, head of the Malawi Consumer Association (CAMA), said the unemployment crisis could lead to politicians using vulnerable young people to their own advantage.
“It’s a potential recipe for turmoil. Most of our young people are poorly educated and at great risk of getting involved in crime to survive and being exploited to violently gain political power. This initiative is a welcome development in this country. We should all support it for the benefit of the country,” Kapito told OnIslam.net.
“Malawi has everything: good agricultural soil and plenty of water. We need a bigger program of entrepreneurship, which will create a bigger domestic market so that when our youth produce they can sell,” he added.
Various sectors of the Malawi society have taken their turns in praising the initiative, describing it as the “hope for the future.”
“As government, we welcome this initiative, coming a time when employment opportunities are very rare. This is the only hope for the future of the youth of Malawi. It will help to provide solutions to their social-economic needs. As government, we salute this,” Malawi’s Minister of Sports, Youth and Culture, Grace Chiumia told OnIslam.net.
“Young people are the soul of this country. We should therefore at all cost be careful with how we handle them. If we create a room for them to mess up their lives, we are destroying the nation of today and tomorrow. We should all join hands to empower the youth, because the process of leadership begins today,” said Chiumia.
She then appealed to various sectors of the society to explore various avenues to empower youth in various aspects.
“We all have a responsibility to rise up to the challenge of unemployment among the youth. We should strive to explore ways to better their lives for them to emerge productive leaders of Malawi,” the Minister said.
The devastating consequences of sustained youth unemployment are increasingly coming to the fore in the deeply conservative country.
Nelson Zekeyu of Drug Fight Malawi (DFM), which offers substance abuse counseling, said rising numbers of dejected youth are visiting the organization for rehabilitation.
“The easy accessibility of locally grown, high-grade marijuana and cheap alcohol makes many unemployed youth want to escape the reality of their daily lives because they can’t cope with it.
“We’re seeing girls forced into prostitution due to lack of jobs with serious drug and alcohol problems, which we don’t have the resources to address. This vocational training program will therefore help to address matters a great deal,” Zakeyu told OnIslam.net.
“Malawi is tragically losing a lot of its energetic young people, who are critical for the development of its future, to drugs and alcohol. The majority of our young unemployed are very poor and can’t afford to pay for skills training,” he added.
Implementing policies which match education and training with employer needs are among the International Labour Organization (ILO) report’s recommendations.
If young people are to be given a fair chance at a decent job, Malawi will meet its Millennium Development Goals of fighting poverty and inequality.
This is the first initiative of this kind from the Muslim community in the country.
Islam is the second largest religion in the country after Christianity. Muslims account for 36% of the country’s 16 million population.