BENEDICT TEMBO, Kasama
THE impending opening of the youth skills training centre at the Zambia National Service (ZNS) at Kasama’s Chishimba Unit has brought joy and hope to the community; youths, civic leaders and government officials alike are upbeat about the potential benefits.
Their hope has been re-ignited by President Lungu’s recent visit to the centre, which has capacity to train 400 youths.
Ruth Mbanga, 27, has been idling since she completed school six years ago and now she sees the advent of the skills centre as a solution to her situation.
Ruth completed her Grade 12 in 2011 but has not found any employment or training opportunities in Chishimba, a locality north-west of Kasama, where she is being kept.
She is among many others in similar situation.
After completing school at Mungwi Technical Secondary School in Kasama, Ronald Chanda, 23, has been roaming in Chief Mwamba’s area without any hope of finding something meaningful to do.
Precious Ngosa, 21, who completed her senior secondary school at Chishimba Day Secondary School on the fringes of the ZNS camp, is also eager to enrol at the youth skills centre.
So is Muleya Muluti, 23, who completed his Grade 12 in Choma and trekked to the ZNS camp, where he lives with a relative to look for life-changing opportunities.
The youths are anxious to undertake courses to be offered by the centre to become productive citizens and help their families.
Ruth and Muleya have an eye on general agriculture because Government has prioritised it for economic diversification.
The Chishimba Skills Centre, which lies 45 kilometres from Kasama boma along the Kasama-Mporokoso road, will be running the courses on behalf of the Ministry of Youth and Sport to ensure that youths are impacted with life-long sustaining skills.
The centre will be offering a wide range of courses to youths at no cost.
Chishimba ZNS Unit commanding officer Gilbert Lungu says the courses to be offered include general agriculture with specialisation in growing of crops such as maize, soya beans and vegetables.
Other courses will specialise in livestock production with emphasis on cattle and chicken rearing.
“The centre will also offer courses in technical programmes such as bricklaying and plastering, plumbing and sheet metal, carpentry and joinery and automotive mechanics,” Lieutenant Colonel Lungu says.
Other courses that are on offer are tailoring and designing, catering, music and cultural tenets of Zambia.
The 18-month courses are conducted under the auspices of the Technical Education and Vocation Training (TEVETA).
Col Lungu is happy that the construction of the centre, which started in 2014, is nearing completion.
The centre will be the third in the series besides the ones in Katete and Kitwe.
Entry qualifications will be determined by the Ministry of Youth, who are the owners of the programme.
Col Lungu says ZNS has qualified instructors to run the courses because apart from the skills and knowledge they possess, they were also trained in teaching methodologies.
He said during the time when Chishimba did not have a skills training centre, its staff were attached to Katete and Kitwe centres.
“We expect that when this programme starts, ZNS headquarters will attach several more who have been trained,” he said.
The centre has already started receiving training aids for all the courses it will be running.
“All the handy tools have been received,” Col Lungu said.
He is aware that the prospects of the centre opening soon have excited a lot of people ranging from politicians to the local people, especially youths who hope to benefit from the training programmes.
“The expectations so far are very high, we are excited. This centre will cater for youths from across the country. We want to promote the ‘One Zambia, One Nation,” Col. Lungu said.
He commended President Lungu for the passion he has exhibited by inspecting the facilities which have been constructed so far.
“People are expecting a lot from the centre; we are just working on a few things,” he said.
Zesco has already connected power to the centre.
He says the unit will have more responsibilities when the centre opens.
With more manpower at their disposal, the unit hopes to expand its garden and ranches where students will be doing their practicals.
Currently, the unit is involved in crop production of maize, soya beans and vegetables and keeps 300 cattle.
ZNS director of public relations John Ndhlovu is delighted that all the programmes are already running.
“We are all set, we are good to goal, they can bring youths today, we can start training them,” Colonel Ndhlovu said.
Northern Province minister Brian Mundubile is equally excited.
“The centre will impart the much needed skills in our youths, who will be turned into employers because they will create their own companies, farms and workshops. Above all, we shall end up with well-disciplined youths who will become agents of change,” Mr Mundubile says.
Kasama town clerk Zakeyo Mbao is excited because the skills training centre will enable youths to acquire life-long skills that will lead to a reduction in youth unemployment and inequality in the district.
“It will also lead to improved earnings, reduction of skill mis-match, career development opportunities and professional status for the youth, thereby contributing positively to the development of the district and Zambia as a whole,” Mr Mbao said.
ZNS commandant Nathan Mulenga says the skills training centre has been constructed from internally generated resources and estimates that about K4 million has been spent on construction works.
When President Lungu visited the unit, he charmed the officers by asking for the direction to the guardroom.
President Lungu has special affinity for the unit, where he did his mandatory ZNS training after leaving school in the mid-1970s.