Since it opened its doors to students in June 2004, SOS Vocational Training Centre Lilongwe has established itself as one of the most respected tertiary education centres in town. The number of students rose rapidly from the initial 97 to full capacity within two terms.
With a capacity of 140 students, the centre is offering training in practical subjects such as building, carpentry, horticulture and information technology. Most students are youths between eighteen and twenty-two.
Harry*, John and Mabvuto, youths who now live in the community, but who used to live at SOS Children's Village Lilongwe, saw an opportunity and with encouragement from their youth worker, decided to enrol in the carpentry and joinery course.
All three of the boys had failed to complete their studies at the Hermann Gmeiner Secondary School, but still wanted to enhance their future prospects. They are now adapting well to their new environment.
"After dropping out of secondary school, I thought that was the end of my life, but looking at what I am able to do now (making furniture for sale), I am confident my future is still bright", said John.
In the short period that they have been at the centre they have learned to make first-class furniture such as display cabinets and are expected to sit for the National Trade Test grade three in April 2006.
The fourth student is Thokozani, who has successfully passed her Malawi School Certificate of Education last year and is now pursuing a full-time course in Information Communication Technology.
Thokozani is currently doing extremely well and passed her City & Guilds Technician-certificate level last December; she is expected to sit for her diploma in June 2006.
She has been a very well-behaved and outstanding student in her course studies, and her ambitions are to proceed to degree level. The centre is very proud to have such an ambitious young girl attending its courses.
"I am excited because the course I am taking is also offered at the Polytechnic, a college of the University of Malawi, which gives me more hope that I will be able to proceed to degree level in computer science".
These trainees are the first group from the village to attend the training centre and the tutors will do everything to ensure they succeed in their programs and go on to have interesting careers. The students look forward to being independent after completing their courses successfully.
Alongside the practical courses, a special course prepares graduates for setting up their own businesses by teaching them business development skills and helping them prepare business plans.
*For privacy reasons, we have changed the names of the youths.