We have grown up in a society that has taught us to believe that academic education is the all in all to a successful life.
New Ground with Patricia Mabviko Musanhu
The Online Free Dictionary defines academic education as that which is “scholarly to the point of being unaware of the outside world”. It goes further to say, “theoretical or speculative without a practical purpose or intention; having no practical purpose or use”.
Academic education is different from vocational training, which the same dictionary defines as being “concerned with skills needed for an occupation, trade or profession”. It is without a doubt that for many years we have focused on academic education as being the way to acquire logical and analytical thought to help us solve problems.
I went to Nyadire district in Mutoko last week and what I saw there left me inspired and thinking very seriously about this whole idea of education. I came across young people who might easily be categorised as “uneducated” by Zimbabwean standards but whose lives have been completely transformed through education of a non-academic type.
Most of these young people either didn’t go to school or were unable to continue with their academic education simply because their parents were too poor to afford it.
Ernest Chimanga is 33 years old and stands as a shining example in Nyadire Ward 25, Mutoko district. He is married and has three children.
He failed to pursue his academic education after “O” Levels as his parents could not afford it. He tried to make a living from subsistence farming, but found it very difficult because of lack of knowledge on farming and an absence of resources.
In 2011, he took advantage of an opportunity that arose for young people to receive skills training so as to create employment and increase their chances of employability. Ernest and 59 other young people enrolled for the course, which was being offered free of charge, to young people.
They received practical and theoretical training in horticulture production.
The course also covered marketing, financial management and business management. The horticulture production project utilises both irrigation farming during the dry season and dry land farming during the wet season. Ernest attended this course for three months and after training applied himself diligently to do as he had been taught.
He grew a crop of carrots in 2013 on an area of about 0,5 hectares. From this he harvested 250 bags of carrots, which he sold at US$50 a bag and earned a gross income of US$5 000.
He made a profit of US$3 500 after taking out 30% to cover overheads and other expenses. He subsequently grew different types of crops including sweet potatoes, butternuts and maize which, over a few months, yielded him a profit of about US$7 000. On the strength of his high quality produce and sound business practice and not the conventional collateral and payslip, Ernest attracted the attention of a bank whose representatives visited him and after assessment were satisfied that he qualified to get a loan.
To date, Ernest has successively received three loans which he has successfully repaid. His agricultural land is so fully utilised that he is now renting unutilised pieces of agricultural land from his community to increase his crop production and yield.
From an unemployed and “uneducated” school dropout, Ernest has risen to become an employer in his district. He has employed two young men to help him in the fields and regularly contracts community members whom he pays to assist during planting and harvesting.
Last year, he purchased a two tonne truck worth US$10 000 dollars and began a transporting business. He employed a driver who is responsible for transporting local farmers’ produce to urban markets for a fee. Ernest had always lived in a round hut which is synonymous with most rural homes in Zimbabwe, but because of his growing income, he has been able to build a home for himself and his family, acquired a generator and satellite television and will soon be opening up a retail business in his community.
Ernest is one of many examples of successful stories of young people in Mutoko district who have created employment through this vocational training programme. Perhaps we could learn from this example and shift our thinking into other areas to help thousands of university graduates who have acquired academic education but are sitting at home unable to find jobs.
Patricia Mabviko Musanhu is a Company Director/Producer at Black and White Media Productions. She can be contacted at email@example.com