Mechanics for Africa
Mechanics for Africa (MfA) is a training school for motor mechanics based in Ndola, Zambia. It was set up in 2003 by a young couple from Surrey. Charlie and Sharonne Watt had worked with an NGO in Zambia and wanted to use their particular skills help young people who live in desperate poverty to get a vocational training and improve their chances of getting work. MfA is a registered charity in both the UK and Zambia.
MfA’s current Principal is Jason Stonier. His wife Claire looks after financial administration and is Business Development Manager. They live with their two young children on the college’s campus in Ndola, Zambia. The college employs twenty local staff and managers.
Most of the funding for the college is provided by individuals in the UK sponsoring the students. The UK trustees are volunteers and also look after all UK costs, so 100% of money from our UK donors goes to support the charity’s work in Zambia.
Our aim is to cover an increasing proportion of costs from trading income in Zambia. MfA’s commercial workshop and other surplus-generating activities now cover the majority of our college running costs.
From 16 students at the start in 2003, MfA has expanded and at present MfA has seventy- three students studying a two-year course which leads to an internationally-recognised City and Guilds qualification. MfA has developed a strong local reputation... the courses are not advertised, and there are generally around 200 applications for an annual intake of around 35 students. A recent grant from the Beit Trust is being used to extend our classrooms and buildings and we plan to increase student numbers to 100 starting in 2019.
The college is registered with the Zambian ministry of vocational education and has their equivalent of an OFSTED outstanding rating. The success of its teaching is simply expressed in the fact that in last year’s City & Guilds examinations 100% of MfA students passed every single paper, most with credits and distinctions. This compares with a City & Guilds worldwide average pass rate of 52%.
We mainly teach motor mechanics, but what sets us apart from other technical colleges is that life skills are an integral part of our curriculum – communication, conflict resolution, interview skills, CV writing; we teach computing and first aid, and bring in experts to teach nutrition and sexual health as well as teaching sustainable small-scale agriculture which is an important contributor to local diets.
Zambia has been one of the African countries most affected by Aids. For MfA, this is reflected in the fact that 60% of students have lost at least one parent. Half of these have lost both parents. Accurate employment statistics are hard to come by, but compared with European levels is thought to be very high. Of 29 graduates in 2015, 24 are currently employed as full-time mechanics, 4 have part- time jobs and one is engaged in further study.
Masiku Zulu, one of graduates, says: "The education I received at MfA I have never taken for granted because the knowledge doesn’t come cheaply. It was especially great to know that after I graduated I would have a job because of the reputation of MfA. I appreciate the chance that I now have to contribute to my family and the investment that MfA has made in me. I love telling people that I am part of MfA!"