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Youth work practice in Ireland and Zambia, by Chris Chiwela (Junior Achievement Zambia)

Christopher Chiwela is a youth worker working with Junior Achievement Zambia and he is also a member of the Zambian Youth Workers' Association (ZYWA). He took part in the NYCI exchange in 2010. Here he presents a speech he made to colleagues at the ZYWA at a national conference in 2011.

The NYCI Development Education youth workers exchange programme has been welcomed by Zambia Youth Workers Association. Speaking at the National Youth Workers Conference held in Siavonga, Zambia Youth Workers Association General Secretary Mr. Andrew Tandeo said, “The exchange programme  between Zambia and Ireland  is a good approach in sharing the best practices in youth work between the Global North and  the Global South”.  He further stated that there is need to evaluate the programme so that the results of the exchange programme could be documented and improve the programme.  He emphasised that in order to improve and promote youth work more especially in Zambia that there is need for stakeolders to make sure that only qualified youth workers are selected for the programme so that many untrained youth workers would aspire to undergo for short trainings in youth work. Mr Tandeo said.

Zambian youth workers invovled in the NYCI exchange 2010Photo: Zambian Youth workers in the 2010 exchange - Chris is on the far right-hand side

Earlier in the presentation Mr. Christopher Chiwela one of the participants in the exchange programme presented  a paper on his experience of youth work in Ireland as stated the below:

Identity as Youth Workers
Unlike in Zambia where youth work is not valued enough, and often badly paid as a profession, in Ireland it was clear that participants thoroughly identified themselves as youth workers, and that this term implies a strong core identity and set of responsibilities that cut across various jobs and roles. A shared sense of pride and commitment to the profession was clear.

Age Focus
Unlike in Zambia, where youth work is not very organized and recognized, but focuses on activities for a wide-range of age groups (18-35 years old), youth work in Ireland focuses primarily on 12 to 18 year olds and is more developed as a profession.

In Ireland the provision of supports for youth is mandated and funded by the central government. Each local authority is responsible for ensuring supports are available in their community and must report their plans and compliance to the central government. This contrasts significantly with Zambia’s patchwork of very localized, community-grown programmes that are financed by a variety of private and state funding streams.

Ireland has a set of nationally recognized competencies for youth workers and a centralized system for qualifications, which is available regardless of whether a youth worker is employed on a full- or part-time basis.  Qualifications can be attained through formal higher education or through a range of community-based trainings, or through short trainings in working with young people.  In Zambia anyone working with young people is regarded as a youth worker with or without any form of qualification.

Roles and Delivery Systems
One youth worker, we met, Theresa, describes herself as a `detached' youth worker. In the afternoons she is at a centre documenting her work activities and completing other administrative requirements. From 5 to 9 pm she conducts her youth work in the community, in places where young people (usually drug users) gather, establishing relationships and rapport with young people who will not participate in building-based youth clubs.

In the Ireland youth work also  happens in the following contexts:

Projects- with particular groups of young people e.g. young women, various ethnic groups;
Specialist Projects- focus on specific activities such as volunteering or the arts, environment, global justice (development education) etc;
Youth Forums or Councils- assisting young people to learn about the democratic process. etc

In whatever setting youth work takes place the focus is on establishing relationships that enable young people to explore, make sense of their experiences, plan and take action. Because the focus is on supporting the young people with whom they engage, national mandates and standards in no way ‘standardize,’ ‘prescribe,’ or dehumanize young people. Youth work is localized, organic and authentic.

In Chris’ conclusion, he stated that It is at this level youth workers in Ireland (Global North) and Zambia (Global South) need to constantly share information  in order to promote common approaches in youth work. The NYCI development education youth workers exchange programme does not only mean  youth workers going to Ireland  or Zambia but also sharing information through internet and other contacts.

Chris can be reached at the following is address: 3rd Floor, Kafue House, Cairo Road, P.O. Box 36760, Lusaka, Zambia by telephone: +260 (211) 366100 Extension 2352, Mobile: + 260 (977)464630; e-mail: