Wakisa Ngosi, a 13-year-old boy raised by a widow, has come second in this year’s Primary School Leaving Certificate of Education (PSLCE) examinations.
The soft-spoken learner, selected from Ekwendeni Primary School in mzimba District to Blantyre Secondary School (BSS), was rumoured as the brightest star in the annual examination alongside Henderson Levison of Nampeya in Machinga.
However, the top-five belatedly issued by the Malawi National Examinations Board (Maneb) shows that the two were runners-up to Alinafe Chulu of Playdor Private School in Blantyre. They perch second alongside Angel Mbewe of Mphongole in Kasungu, the official record shows.
Wakisa, who lives with his aunt in Namiyango Township in Blantyre, is only happy to savour the moment.
“I’m delighted to be among the top three in the national exams. This is the best thing that has happened to me since I started schooling the year my father died,” he says.
Kate Mhone has raised three children single-handedly since the death of her husband in 2015.
Wakisa, who started schooling months after the court clerk’s death, salutes his mother, a chef at a lakeside resort in Karonga, as her greatest inspiration.
“She is the reason I work hard,” he says.
The learner dreams of becoming a surgeon.
And here is why: “Surgeons operate on patients with different deadly conditions and my hard-working mother will be happy when my dream comes true. I want to lift her out of poverty.”
Wakisa has surmounted a dim past at the rural school where “two or three children share a textbook of agriculture, his favourite subject.
He also likes mathematics, science, English and Chichewa.
If he briefly met President Lazarus Chakwera or Minister of Education Madalitso Kambauwa Wilima, the teenager would tell them: “Put more resources in public schools for the good of the children, the future leaders.”
His feat took him to the National Assembly in Lilongwe at the invitation of Catherine Gotani Hara, the Speaker of Parliament who is also the legislator of Mzimba North East.
And he has a tip for every child in school.
“Believe in God, work hard and obey both parents and teachers,” he says.
Her aunt Glory Ngosi Maulidi, the civic education expert at the National Initiative for Civic Education, calls him “our pastor in the house”.
“Wakisa is God-fearing, humble, respectful and hardworking. There is no dull moment for him. He is always doing something to show that he can make it big. He advises even adults,” she says.
In a telephone interview from Ngosi Village near Mwenelondo Market in Karonga, his happy mother could not hide her joy.
“This is a dream come true, my prayer has been answered,” says Mhone. “I’m overjoyed that my firstborn is among the shining stars. He has been number one since we came home after his father’s death.”
Mhone thanks her sister Modesta Kalua, who took Wakisa from Mwenelondo Primary School to Ekwendeni “to safeguard his future”.
Ekwendeni Primary School headteacher Precious Kaunda bills Wakisa as “the school’s best performer in the past two decades if not since it enrolled its onset in 1960”.
All 125 Standard Eight PSLCE candidates at the school with 1 720 students and 60 teachers have passed. Eight have been selected to national schools, 17 to the district-based institution at Euthini and 80 to Ekwendeni Community Day Secondary School. Only 20 did not make it to secondary schools
Kaunda states: “Wakisa has made us proud, but this is no surprise because he was number one in the whole Northern Education Division [NED] during mock exams.
“Soon after the release of the PSLCE results, we received congratulatory messages from both NED and the district education manager’s office for producing the best student in the national examinations, but the names trending were a boy from Machinga and then a girl from Blantyre.
“Two days later, I was was shocked when Maneb announced that Wakisa came second alongside the much-famed Machinga boy. This mix-up cannot undo the big things God has in store for him,” says the seasoned teacher.
To him, Wakisa’s success personifies the power of inclusive teaching and learning at the school with a resource centre for learners with visual impairments.
Kaunda said: “We have 60 learners with special needs. As part of inclusive education, we always made sure that Wakisa, who has a sight problem, sat in the front row and at a good angle to see the writing on the chalkboard.
“Paying attention to each learner’s special needs reduces the risk of leaving them, especially if teachers use one approach for all.”
NED manager Jennings Kayira says Wakisa’s success marks the education division’s rise from perennial underperformance.
Just last year, he summoned all headteachers, inspectors and primary education advisers to a meeting in Karonga.
He narrates: “During the meeting, I told them: ‘This is disgraceful and we’ve to improve.’
“The outcomes included the rollout of divisional mock tests, intensive teaching, close supervision of teachers at work and continuous assessment of students’ performance. I’m glad that this has paid off.”