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Kevin Dispatch

13 Guys and a Girl:
Training to Become a Commodity

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10 of the 14 welders at CHIYSAP
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Fearlessly, Irene bursts onto the scene the very first female student in the welding department at CHIYSAP. When she first joined CHIYSAP, she was very enthusiastic about gaining a skill that would make her very marketable in an economic environment marred with high levels of unemployment. As a very young woman, one would expect her to enroll in the same department as most of the other young female trainees, that is the "cutting and designing" in other words dressmaking department. But Irene had another plan and made a decision that, at the time, shocked all of the other students at CHIYSAP.

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Even now, she remains distinct from the other 13 guys in the department however, none of these boys would ever think to question her ability to do the job. "Quite frankly, the boys were shocked when I first started. I guess they're used to it by now," explains Irene, as she crouches down to hammer flat a piece of metal on the floor. Bang, Bang, Bang! She brings the hammer down, while I seem to be the only one of us that flinches at the sound and vibrations pounding in my eardrums.

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Kevin takes a stab at welding
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Every week from Monday to Thursday, the 14 member team spends all morning and afternoon learning new skills and refining the techniques of previous lessons. But before beginning any serious work, the students must first complete a two month training program which covers the very basics of welding and safety. Welding involves both gas and electric torches to heat up the metal to the point of high malleability. Therefore, the trainees must consider everything in the room to be potentially very hot at all times and they use gloves for whatever they touch. Other dangers they must become cautious of include getting smoke or flying sparks into their eyesas well as getting burnt by the flame of a gas torch. They must all wear goggles whenever they are near a gas flame and they use a very large face mask when welding with the electric torch.

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Godfrey welding with a gas torch
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I picked up the electric torch and tried wearing the mask myself. I began to feel like Darth Vader, but without the black cape. Nobody was trusting enough to turn on the electric torch while it was still in MY hands! W-R-I-T-E-R and W-E-L-D-E-R may appear similar enough in a crossword puzzle, but not to these trainees who know better. "We're just not turning it on for you because you're not wearing the blue suit," comforted one of the students. It's true that they always wear long blue coats to further protect their skin and body, but I quickly got the hint nevertheless.

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Vain and Irene have just completed these fine burglar bars
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But that initial training segment is now a thing of the past for this crew who are already making things that they'll soon be able to sell. A student named Godfrey fires up the gas torch and begins to weld two small pieces of metal together. The incredible heat makes the metal glow and sends sparks flying. Another student named Vain secures a plate of metal into a vice and begins to saw right through it using all his might. Others are drilling a hole into a sheet of metal as if it were a soft piece of wood.

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Jeremiah, Peter, and Clemens proudly show off  a new window frame
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But just what are they making? For one, they learn how to make many common things for the house like "burglar bars." With all of the computer equipment we Trekkers leave in our hotel rooms, we're certainly happy to see those things protecting our windows! They're simply thin bars arranged in a diamond pattern that allow plenty of air to pass through even a hand to open and close the window but burglars can't get much more than their arm through them. They also make lesman-gates for garages. These are basically garage doors that lift up and into the garage and are balanced by weights so that they don't swing open or closed too quickly. Nearly anything that requires the joining of two pieces of metal can be made by a welder: chairs,bars, counters, window frames, door screens, and sliding gates that further protect a door's security.

Being able to construct such items puts these students in high demand once they complete their studies at CHIYSAP. Most of the trainees would like to be self-employed when they get out into the field and some would even like to work out of their homes on a project-to-project basis. There are a few that are even ambitious enough to tackle auto repair which is a very difficult job requiring just the sort of basic skills acquired here as well as a knowledge of automobiles. In Zimbabwe, it is impossible to predict one's success in a job field because the competition for a limited number of jobs is tough. Even so, Irene advises her fellow classmates and all of the readers following the World Trek to, "Keep on trying! Despite failures, life does go on and there will be more jobs and successes in the future."

Kevin
 

Kavitha - Sunday in Bulawayo, Let's Head to the Market!
Monica - Elephants, Elephants Everywhere! A Visit to Hwange National Park
Making a Difference - Go and Score a Goal!
Monica - To Be, or Not to Be: The Question of Elephants at Hwange
Abeja - From 1st World to the 3rd: How Big Is Your Mess?

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