Alisha Kalua comes from Mukhulu village in Traditional Authority Ntchindi in Mzimba district. She is 26 years old, married with one child.
In June 2018, she was enrolled for a six months basic Cobbler and Shoe Making course offered by DAPP Mikolongwe Vocational School at its Satellite Centre in Mzimba, under DAPP Mzimba Teachers Training College.
The six-month shoe making training equips young women and men with basic shoe making, repairing and entrepreneurial skills. Following her training at Mzimba Satellite Centre, Alisha had an opportunity to further advance the vocational training at Mikolongwe Vocational School campus in Chiradzulu, where she was trained for another six months in advanced shoe making course.
By course design, students receive start up tools in groups of three upon successful completion of the training. This is done to enable them to establish small scale businesses.
“After our training at Mzimba centre, we received start up tools which include a shoe sewing machine in a group of three to work as a trio, currently we are two of us renting this room and using the machine while the third person went to school for a training in another field,” said Alisha.
Alisha and her colleague are based in Euthini, an approximately 100 kilometres from Mzimba district council. A hard to reach area, she narrates that their challenge in their business has been finding materials especially different types of leather in order to produce materials that meet their customers’ demands.
However, she said operating in her area is also advantageous as the two are only ones that are making shoes in the area.
“We have a lot of customers here, it’s like almost all people that want a shoe made will come to us because we are the only ones producing shoes without much competition,” she said.
Alisha and her colleague have been operating their shops for less than three months at Euthini Trading centre. She said despite the setbacks that are materials for producing a variety of shoes, they are able to make more than 50 thousand Kwacha in a month.
They say as a team, their plan in the short term is to save up from their earnings and purchase materials in bulk which will enable them to meet the market demands.
The Cobbler and Shoe making course is a vocational training that benefits underprivileged young women and men. The aim is to equip them with skills and knowledge that will enable them start up a small scale business or secure an employment thereby alleviating their poverty.
The project is financed by Sympany of Netherlands and targets to reach 225 youth across the country.
The World Health Organisation declared the Coronavirus a pandemic in March 2020 following an outbreak that started in China and spread in other countries across the world.
Following this declaration, the government of Malawi through the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology ordered the closure of all schools in Malawi until further notice.
DAPP Malawi education programs were among institutions and implementations affected by the development.
However, learning doesn’t stop in some of the projects. DAPP Mikolongwe Vocational school offers technical and entrepreneurial trainings to Malawian youth. In a quest to ensure continued learning, one of the courses, Cobbler and Shoe making, has adapted to using social media platforms like WhatsApp to deliver lessons to students while they are home.
A class of over 50 students from four cohorts have organised themselves in an online group where their instructor delivers lessons and assignments.
According to one of the Instructors Mr Daniel Mkama, two lessons are being delivered weekly and students will put into practice what has been taught.
“The class comprises of students that were enrolled in different cohorts while some are behind in their lessons and others are at an advanced stage but what we are delivering to them is what they can manage to do while home. Some of the students received start up tools so they will be able to work since the also operate in trios (a group of three),” explained Mkama.
In one of the lessons, the Instructor share with the students on how they can produce stitching patterns on leather shoes that can last up to three years.
“These stitches will strengthen the weaknesses that arise between the adhesive that arises between the adhesive that is used when joining the lining and the outer material. This means the inside and outer materials are joined to strengthen the whole shoe,” read part of the lesson.
The students enrolled in Shoe Making work in trios for continues sharing of ideas and experiences. In the groups of three, they receive start up tools upon completion of their training to start up small scale businesses.
The Cobbler and Shoe Making courses is being run with funding assistance from Sympany of Netherlands.
DAPP Mikolongwe Vocational school has to date trained over 10,900 youth since its establishment in 1997.