Hard work pays. This is the story of Mark Kamphira, 35, a volunteer teacher who has transformed Chiguma Primary School in Blantyre from a community structure a primary school.
Thanks to his drive and contribution to the push to ensure every child learns, Kamphira emerged the overall winner in the 2017 Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC’s) Innovator of Innovators Awards.
For his feat, the teacher received a K3.5 million prize, a scholarship for further studies and a month-long all-paid trip to China.
During the awards gala at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe last December, the teacher, once buried in what used to be a thankless sacrifice at the remote school in Traditional Authority (T/A) Kunthembwe, was treated to a State dinner and a photo opportunity with President Peter Mutharika.
His success did not come easy. For years, he had to sweat and sacrifice his time, resources and everything towards giving rural children a solid start in life.
Since 2015, Kamphira was the lone teacher at the school which the community established to save children from walking long distances to access education.
He taught seven classes single-handedly. A joke in the teaching profession has it that he was the head teacher, his own class teacher and sports master. In brief, he was an all-rounder.
For all this great work, the man got a measly K15 000 a month from community’ contributions.
His monthly pay may be change to the rich, but it meant everything to him.
“Sometimes I had to settle for less since some poor households could not afford the contribution,” he said.
But this did not deter Kamphira’s desire to educate children in the countryside.
“I accepted to teach in a harsh environment because it has always been my passion to assist children from the far-flung area to attain quality education,” he explains.
Kamphira was admittedly touched by the alarming school dropout rates.
“I didn’t want the situation to continue and that is why I volunteered to teach children in the area.”
In this line of duty, the volunteer often used his meagre resources to source teaching and learning materials.
Within the two years he has been in charge of the school, many pupils have posted good results.
His dedication compelled MBC to nominate him for the annual innovators’ awards in recognition of distinguished people who are changing their communities using everything within their reach.
He scooped the first prize in the education category as well as the Innovator of Innovators.
“I never imagined this would ever happen in my life. Up to now, I am still in shock. Imagine struggling to get a monthly stipend and stumbling into millions overnight,” he says.
Kamphira plans to use the cash prize for a number of investments. Top of the pack is the will to go back to school and re-sit the Malawi School Certificate Education (MSCE) examinations.
“I scored 29 points,” he says. “But this is not good enough as I want to pursue a degree in education,” he says.
Kamphira also plans to build a three-bedroom house in Chilomoni, Blantyre, where he owns a plot.
Interestingly, he does not seem carried away with such a huge sum of money.
He has put the K3 million in a fixed deposit account he holds with one of the banks in the country.
This means it will earn him interest while he ponders on how best he can make his two dreams come true.
“I am cautious because I want to do something that will change my life and remain memorable for years,” Kamphira says.
The President advised the award-winner to continue working hard creating a better future for himself and the pupils.
Kamphira’s story has brought to light the shortage of teachers at Chiguma.
Recently, the Ministry of Education deployed two teachers to the school.
Despite the boost, Kamphira vows to continue serving his community until he secures a place for further studies.
“I am excited that the school has two qualified teachers. This is good for pupils. Now, they can access quality education,” he says.
Blantyre Rural district education manager Paul Chiphanda hailed Kamphira for his life-changing contribution to society.
“We recognise Kamphira’s contribution towards the development of education. We will consider placing him in one of the teachers’ colleges so that he continues with his studies and become a qualified teacher,” said Chiphanda when he presented the two teachers.
The community school at Chiguma is now a full primary school recognised by government.
Following the arrival of two teachers, it has introduced a double-shift system.
The pupils take turns, some learning in the morning while others learn in the afternoon to ensure more children in the area access basic education. n