Fundi (Tradesmen) Workshop - Latest

REPORT by Marcus Collie (Volunteer)

Karume College 28th July:  a meeting convened to introduce me to the new students in the Principal’s office.   Also present was the Principal of JKU Military and Technical College. 7 pairs of young eyes looked expectantly up at me.  What was I, the new business manager, going to say to them?  I am Marcus Collie and I have volunteered to help start up the Fundi (tradesmen) Workshop in Jambiani.  An accountant by profession I had very recently retired as financial controller of an integrated construction and property development company in Dublin;  this was my fifth day in Zanzibar working with ZAP.

I had, however, been briefed by ZAP Directors, Pat, Janie and Mr Pandu, so I was well up for the challenge. The time had come for me to try out my slightly rusty Swahili, a legacy of past years living in Africa.   First of all I asked the apprentice fundis if they wished to return to and work in their home village of Jambiani - or had they been distracted by the bright lights of Stonetown?  An enthusiastic ‘YES’, for a return to Jambiani.  Turning to the Principal and tutor I asked my second question: did their instructors feel that their 3 year training was a sufficient for them to go out on their own?  Electricians – yes; plumbers – yes; refrigeration/aircon technician – yes; motor mechanics – not quite yet, for they needed some experience in the real world.  The Principal assured us that the college would arrange for the mechanics to have a placement in a large commercial garage for at least 3 months, perhaps even longer if necessary, in Stonetown.

I then gave a little pep talk telling the students that ZAP wanted to raise the standard of fundis on the east coast of Zanzibar, so that prospective local clients  would not need to go to Stonetown (one and half hours away) to seek tradesmen with good qualifications and up-to-date technical skills.  Our fundis were going to spearhead the lifting of standards in the locality, and it was expected that the workshop would expand in time, with the employment of new apprentices also from Jambiani, and hopefully later on with other skilled tradesmen, e.g. carpenters.

I said that I was delighted to be associated with the project, and looked forward to working with them in the months to come. ZAP would be starting a marketing campaign with the emphasis on QUALITY, RELIABILITY and EFFICIENCY.  A lock up premises had already been secured with the help of the Jambiani Village Committee as a base, a contact point, and a store for their tools in Jambiani Main Street. So they would also be LOCAL to the area.

We subsequently visited the motor mechanics in a very modern Toyota garage, and were assured that they were happy, working hard and gaining valuable experience.  Another visit was made to a deluxe type villa being finished off in Jambiani; our electricians were doing an excellent job there under the enthusiastic eye of the Italian owners.  They were also at work on a beach house for another Italian nearby, with equally high standards. Meantime, the 2 plumbing students were working ‘in the field’, and doing really well. All their work was being thoroughly assessed and monitored by the Karume and JKU tutors – a service which the two colleges are prepared to sustain for some time to come.

Mr Mrishu, Manager of the Visitors Inn in Jambiani, anticipates plenty of work for the refrigeration fundi on air conditioning units locally; and there seems to be a constant demand for plumbers and electricians in a wide area around Jambiani. So I see plenty of good work opportunities ahead for the fundis.

The workshop is due to start in earnest after Ramadan, because until then the Muslim tradition of fasting until dawn to dusk means that not a lot of work is possible.  The premises will be renovated to make them more secure, and a preliminary marketing message has been sent out to local hoteliers.

So having returned for a break to Europe in August, I am now booked to go back to Zanzibar on the 2nd October, staying till early December to continue the work of helping the fundis with in their initial setting up process. This is my plan:

-        Continue the marketing programme
-        Set up the premises
-        Purchase any necessary tools for the fundis
-        Initiate administrative assistants including bookkeeping, cost control and billing, job scheduling and stock control.

We are all looking forward to embarking on this exciting and ground-breaking project, which could become a template for expanding local employment in the desperately poor area of Jambiani. ZAP has received enthusiastic support and encouragement from both technical colleges, who are four square behind the initiative, and who have taken a close interest in the progress of our students. Most critical of all, the scheme not only has the blessing of the Village Committee, but is seen by them as a chink of light in their constant effort to improve the life-style of the wider community. All the 7 fundi students were hand-picked by the Committee members three years ago, and a lot is riding on the success of the Jambiani Fundi Workshop in the future.

Finally I should like to thank my “fundi steering committee” of Mr Pandu, Mr Vuai and Mr Mrishu on whose advice and local wisdom I know I shall heavily depend;  we have already had two meetings and I foresee many more to come!

Marcus Collie
September 2009

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ZANZIBAR ACTION PROJECT is a Registered Charity in the UK No. 1108030