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Mpongwe district to get first vocational training centre

STANLEY Chobola of Mpongwe district cannot hide his joy at the news that the district will have its first vocational training centre.
“It has been a challenge for youths in our district to access tertiary education once they complete high school due to non-availability of universities and colleges in the area. Youths normally go to Luanshya or other neighbouring districts for their tertiary education,” says Mr Chobola.
He is confident that the training centre will not only serve the youths of Mpongwe district, but also those from neighbouring towns.
The vocational training centre will become operational in September this year after the completion of phase one.
The project started in November 2012 and has a duration of six years of construction.
The centre, which will run under the name ‘George Korsten Vocational Training College (GKVTC), is a project under the Give the Children of Mpongwe a Future (GCMF).
GCMF is a local non-governmental organisation supported by Ton Korsten of the Netherlands, with the aim of sustaining the poor in Mpongwe district.
The initiative is a brain-child of Mrs Korsten, who is widow of George Korsten, after she visited Mpongwe district and saw the need for a training centre in the area.
Once in operation, the training centre will offer courses to about 500 local students of which 64 will be in boarding.
The 500 students will be on full-time, 60 small-scale farmers in part-time courses and 60 elderly men and women will be on part-time courses.
GCMF chairperson Anthony Kalima said among the courses at craft certificate and level I-III are: Organic farming, gardening, food processing, bricklaying and plastering, carpentry and joinery, tailoring and design, plumbing, metal fabrication, electrical engineering, auto-mechanics and catering and hospitality.
Mr Kalima noted that although most of the courses will attract men, there will be enrolment of a maximum of 30 percent of women.
“Income-generating activities will be established by each department of the school, including administration and kitchen like evening courses for part-time students, hiring out facilities during holidays and catering services. Students will produce for the local market according to the course they are doing like carpentry products and processed crops,” he said.
Apart from offering tertiary education to the local people in the district, the construction of GKVTC has created jobs for the local people.
During construction, 40 full-time construction workers have been engaged to work in diverse fields.
Of these, 12 women have been engaged in roof thatching and a group of six students are doing traineeship for a period of three months and several local material suppliers have been engaged too.
The workers, who have been employed have no higher education and were all taught skills like carpentry, bricklaying and plumbing.
Meanwhile, the construction of GKVCT operates on three principles: Open source, maxergy and self-sustainability.
Open source: through the use of local and renewable materials, demountable connections and inter-replaceable elements.
Maxergy: through water harvesting, solar energy, waste processing, tree planting and compost making.
Self-sustainability: through action learning, business units, a knowledge centre, computer lab, teacher houses and water filtering.
GKVCT project manager Albert Bram Sol said the construction techniques used for the training centre are new in Zambia and the materials used are locally available and renewable.
Mr Sol said the project uses dry connections, meaning that all the parts are demountable and replaceable.
He explained the project is built with standardised elements making them easy to replace.
“Most of the materials used will be grown back in nature by the end of the buildings’ lifespan. If not automatically (like grass, reeds and bamboo) they (trees) are being planted by GCMF. The introduction of a water harvesting system teaches a way to be able to irrigate during dry season,” Mr Sol said.
With these principles, GCMF and GKVCT were last year awarded by a United Kingdom-based charity called ‘Teach a man to fish’ with a 2014 saville foundation pan-African award for entrepreneurship in education.
And the training centre is set to bring a new dimension to the learning mode in high learning institutions in that learning at the centre will be in accordance with the principles of ‘action learning’ where the practice is a starting point for learning, followed by reflection in the theory.
Learning will occur in a relevant and a specific context. It means that not the instruction of the teacher, but the construction of new ideas and knowledge by the student is the starting point of the learning process.
Students will have an active role in this process and will be responsible for their own learning. The lecturer has the task to coach the student in this process.