The past shapes the future. For Clement Majawa, the head teacher at Muloza Community Day Secondary School (CDSS) in Mulanje, his struggle to make it to University of Malawi (Unima) drives his zeal to ensure bright students attain higher learning.
In just nine years in the border strip, he has sent 16 students to public universities—the highest number in the school’s history.
He has several awards to his name.
In 1999, Muloza was one of Malawi College of Distance Education (MCDE) centres that were converted into CDSSs. Despite the policy shift, shortage of learning and teaching facilities, congested classrooms and unqualified teachers only pushed the quality of education down.
Today, schools like his are well known for the lowest pass rates in Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) examinations.
Until 2007, Muloza sent a single student to the University of Malawi (Unima) in 2005.
But the numbers are growing steadily, thanks to the zeal of Majawa and his staff.
Born in 1976, the go-getter grew up in Blantyre, Mwanza and Neno districts. For two consecutive years, he failed to make it to a conventional secondary school. But this did not push him out of school.
“I am aggressive and I enjoy pushing hard to the end,” he says.
Majawa sat MSCE examinations four times to go to Unima. His first attempt was in 1996.
“I did well in 1997, but had a pass in English. So, in 1998, I registered to rewrite English only, but missed the examinations due to a road accident,” he recalls.
Majawa got his wish in 1999 when he was selected to study education humanities at Chancellor College (Chanco) in Zomba.
The father of two, who teaches history and agriculture, was posted to Mulanje Boma CDSS shortly after graduating in 2005.
He also taught at Njedza CDSS before moving to Muloza in 2007 to stay closer to his wife, Olive—a nurse at Namasalima Health Centre.
Majawa joined Muloza as an ordinary teacher amidst concerns of a high number of under-qualified teachers transferred from primary schools. At the time, both the head and deputy were primary school teachers.
He was promoted when the head teacher’s post fell vacant in 2008.
Now, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (Moest) ranks Muloza CDSS the best school in Mulanje.
“The major problem I found was backbiting and lack of team work,” he recalls. “Both teachers and students lacked discipline and motivation to deliver.”
Change does not happen without resistance, but Majawa soldiered on despite being given nicknames such as Moses for introducing strict don’ts as the biblical Moses brought forth the 10 Commandments
To motivate teachers and students, he introduced achievers’ awards in recognition of star performers in every subject.
He says: “Currently, there is competition. Top 10 students in each class are spoiled with excursions. Best three girls receive K8 000 each.
“Teachers, who produce students with distinctions and strong credits in their respective subjects, get K30 000 and a fully sponsored pleasure trip.”
His office also created teacher-parent relationship to strengthen parents’ involvement in ensuring students do well. There are also students’ study circles for knowledge sharing.
“Previously, most parents didn’t know what school can do to their wards. There is more commitment to school and low absenteeism now,” he explains.
Majawa has introduced his staff to coaching exercises facilitated by examination markers. For students, the school hosts motivational talks regularly. He also initiated girls’ hostels which has reduced dropout rates, teen pregnancies and child marriages.
Muloza is now in its own class. Last year, two girls and two boys made it to Unima.
In the 2018 MSCE, the highest student scored 12 points. Out of 121 students, 106 have passed. Fourteen of them scored less than 20 points.
For this feat, Ministry of Science and Technology (MoEST) named Majawa the 2018 Best head teacher in Mulanje District and also the Overall Best Headteacher in Shire Highlands.
The award recognises innovative teachers who utilise available resources to achieve best results.
Last year, Majawa was named the division’s Best History Teacher after six students got distinctions and five strong credits in MSCE.
“I am not surprised with the recognitions because in most cases, the division office uses my school as a model. In 2017, MoEST named us Best Study Circle School in the division,” says Majawa jovially.
There is more to come. The multi-award winner says he wants to produce a student with six points in MSCE.
“When that happens, I will venture into lecturing,” says the man who is studying for a master’s degree in sociology at Chancellor College.
Muloza CDSS deputy head teacher Felix Magalia describes him as “a magical wand”.
“Now everyone works hard to get awards. The headteacher is creative and innovative. His ideas have changed the school’s story. We look into the future with optimism,” he says.
Catherine Chilombo, the head teacher at Vonken CDSS, said her school “learns a lot” from Majawa’s leadership. She is not surprised with the accolades.
Majawa’s story is a testimony that with good leadership and innovative ideas, constrained schools, including CDSSs, can compete favourably with conventional schools.