12.6 Million under 30: Why Malawi's Invisible Gen is Motivated

This week we are going to talk about the hardships that Malawian youth face in being able to find adequate job opportunities in Malawi, being that they are the majority group, in the work force.

Youth Bulge – (n.) a peak in the share of persons aged 15-24 in the population

There is an “Invisible Generation” in Malawi. One that is virtually ignored. In Malawi, 70% of the population is under 30. This means an influx of youth coming into the workforce, bringing with them, dreams of innovation, entrepreneurship, and a better future. But that is not what is happening. There is a youth job crisis and a growing number of young laborers in need of work. The rising amount of youth means two things. On one hand, it represents a potential opportunity to spark social and economic development, but, on the other, it exacerbates the challenge of finding jobs and opportunities, which is worrisome for the future of Malawi.

Two Secondary students, who are a part of the Standard Sponsorship Project, study together among their peers.

Two Secondary students, who are a part of the Standard Sponsorship Project, study together among their peers.

"To make matters worse, Malawi also faces a serious youth unemployment crisis and the highest working poverty rate in the world. According to a report of the National Statistical Office and ILO, in 2013 only 11.3% of the working population was in formal employment, and the figures for those under 35 are worse." Read the report here. Quote via sdgactioncampaign.org.

Malawi ... faces a serious youth unemployment crisis and the highest working poverty rate in the world.

Graduating classes like this one are rare.

Story Time sponsored students have made it all the way to graduation. Now, the next challenge - MSCE - remain...

Students that graduate with a diploma, are often not able to find a job.

"If you don't have the MSCE, that's it...There is no opportunity for you," says Story Time's own Dr. Zikani Kaunda, who has 20+ years experience tackling developmental topics like literacy and early marriages. MSCE we discussed in a previous post, but basically, MSCE is a government-issued certificate based on a government exam given at the end of Form 4 (Senior year).

A student can technically graduate from secondary school, and not receive the MSCE.

In Malawi, the MSCE acts as "proof" that a person completed secondary school, and without it, a high school graduate won't be accepted into a job, a trade school, or a university.

A student can graduate from High school, and not pass the MSCE.

This is equivalent to an American's post-secondary opportunities being limited by their ACT scores.

Malawi has just over 1 million students in its secondary schools. Compare that to the population we know is under 30, 12.6 million young people, and we know that the enrollment rate in Secondary Education is much lower than it should be.

Dr. Zikani has recognized this first hand, in the Story Time students and also, in his own son.

A challenge that comes about, in Malawi, when you go into education, it’s tailored into finding a job, instead of going into entrepreneurship. My son wanted to start a business, instead of finding a job, my son wanted to make jobs, I wasn’t supportive at first because I couldn’t really wrap my head around the concept of not directly getting employed and I also didn’t understand. All I ever knew was that when you go to school, and finish, you get employed. So, the next year, I invested in my son’s business. And my son started making the connections he needed and his business grew. His business that he exports crops. This year, people harvested good crops and he’s buying good product and exporting it, last year he even made more money than me! I finally accepted the fact that it was a good decision. We need to ask the question, what happens to the students after they graduate? Will they have the resources, tools and skills to be able to stand on their own?”

Involving Women and Girls

A group of young women who participate in the  Women's Empowerment Program

A group of young women who participate in the Women's Empowerment Program

Some challenges faced by Malawian girls are child marriage, lack of education, and sexual abuse. “Women are nurturing and can use that ability to take care of the economic situation in their home, community and country. They need to be empowered and inspired.” (sdgactioncampaign.org)

“There are a lot of temptations, we have men who demand that I sleep with them if they are to give me a job”, says Malika Banda, 23, a woman who frequents the labor office in Blantyre (MWnation.com). We've covered some of the issues women face and the issues that Story Time is tackling, with the help of the local Mother's Group and female teachers. (To read more Stories blog posts about this topic, click here.) We will continue to tell the stories of young women of the community, as they face particular challenges and hurdles compared to their male counterparts.

Entrepreneurship is needed to improve the country.

To be able to prosper, the youth need to start creating jobs for themselves and others.

One of Story Time’s goals is to be able to give and teach the skills for students to succeed even after secondary school. We want to be able to support these students to be able to think creatively and help grow and make Malawi prosper. By supporting them to take the opportunity of a secondary education, we can ignite this fire, and gain hope for the future.

Students will be leaders, sooner rather than later.

Do you believe that every student deserves a chance to acheive thier dreams, no matter where they were born? Click below to contribute to our Every Bit Counts campaign, which focuses on supporting students through the toughest exam of their life, the MSCE.

To learn more about Story Time's initiative to provide the resources young people need to reach their goals, visit this page. To read more stories from students, click here.

If this blog post made you think about your role in society, or how Malawian leaders could make a difference, please share with friends, or sign up for emails from Story Time for more information like this.