Malumbo Mkandawire looks into the future with hope. The 22-year-old has triumphed over daunting adversities that stand in the way of girls’ strides to attain education, Malawi News Agency journalist ANDREW MKONDA reports.
The girl, from Katunguwire in Mzimba, has become a role model among her peers, thanks to a bursary from Campaign for Female Education (Camfed).
Placed on it 2014, when she was in Form Four at Bandawe Girls Secondary School in Nkhata Bay, Malumbo worked hard to achieve her dreams to go to university.
Now, she is studying for a bachelor’s degree in agricultural sciences at Earth University in Costa Rica, Central America.
Born in a poor, polygamous family of 10 children, she lost her father in 2014. Then, she was 18. Her mother, who distils kachaso (liquor) for sale in Mzuzu’s populous Masasa Township, could not provide for her education needs, including tuition fees.
Now regarded as a shining star, Malumbo’s struggles to excel in primary and secondary schools were never easy.
“Before Camfed picked me, I used to go to school on an empty stomach, no books, no pens and no pocket money. I’m the first child in our family to go to university. My siblings did not reach even secondary school due to lack of school fees and other basics,” she says.
Her sheer determination to succeed propelled her rise to the enviable record in her family.
“When I want to do something, I set goals for myself and put all my efforts to achieve it. One of my goals is to attain a masters’ degree or PhD and go back to my community and motivate many girls to remain in school,” she says.
For Malumbo, gone are the days girls’ dreams were limited to marriage, an institution that some girls enter by force from parents or for monetary and material gains in form of dowry (lobola Rising from humble beginnings, Malumbo is happy to have become an inspiration to many girls, including her sisters.
“My young sister, who was at Kaseghe Girls Secondary School in Chitipa, nearly dropped out because of financial challenges, but my admission to an international university motivated her to persevere and remain in school.
“Now, she is in first year at Deayang University, studying nursing and midwifery, though we are not certain about her future. My mother, who still sells kachaso, is struggling to source tuition fees for her,” she says.
Her mother, Olifa Chisokwe, commends Camfed for giving her daughter a push.
“Now my daughter has a big chance of achieving her goals in life,” says the resilient mother.
For Chisokwe, it was not easy to provide for her daughter’s secondary education by vending the homemade distils and boiled maize.
The woman has always encouraged her children to work hard in school, saying it is the only way to break the vicious cycle of poverty.
“I don’t want them to continue living miserably in their adulthood. They have suffered enough,” she says.
Chisokwe rebukes some parents who encourage their children to quit school to marry or trek to South Africa in search of jobs.
“It is sad that some children on bursaries, like Chifundo had, drop out despite having the capacity to excel in education,” she says.
Senior Chief Mpherembe of Mzimba District commends Chisokwe for not forcing her daughters to marry, but work hard in school.
Nearly half of women in the country marry before their 18th birthday.
But Mpherembe, a member of Camfed community development committee (CDC), says the numbers of girls dumping school to marry is worrisome and retrogressive.
“The nation needs well-educated people who can propel our economy to greater heights,” he says.
Camfed district operations officer Henry Tembo say Malumbo is now “a shining star” in Mzimba North where few girls make it to local universities.
He bragged: “She is the only girl among those who received bursaries who has gone to an international university. This is why after she had just landed at Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe for holidays, we took her to different secondary schools in Mzimba to offer motivation speeches to fellow girls.”
Since 2009, Camfed has been tackling poverty and inequality in the country by supporting marginalised girls to go to school and succeed.
The international no-profit organisation also empowers women to assume roles of leadership for change.According to Tembo, it will continue assisting needy girls with school needs—fees, uniforms and exercise books—as long as funds are available.
“The onus is on them to work hard and realise their dreams. Their friend has set the pace a,” he says.
Interestingly, Malumbo wants to use her agricultural engineering studies to uplift women in her rural community. She aspires to open a commercial farm which will create jobs and become a training ground for Malawians in poverty.
Says Malumbo: “I want to give back to my community. Just like Camfed has done with me, I want to empower girls through support to their education.”