18 March 2018
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Rising to shine through thin and thick

Written by  Andrew Mkonda
Malumbo Mkandawire in an organic vegetable garden at EARTH University in Costa Rica Malumbo Mkandawire in an organic vegetable garden at EARTH University in Costa Rica

Mzuzu, March 8: Malumbo Mkandawire looks into the future with hope from a triumphant girl who has overcome societal challenges that usually stand in the way of a girl child towards attaining education.

The 22-year-old girl of Katunguwire in Mzimba District has become a symbol of success for the Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED) bursary.

Placed on the bursary since 2014 when she was in Form Four at Bandawe Girls Secondary School in Nkhata Bay, Malumbo is on the scale of great heights as she is now pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Sciences at Earth University in Costa Rica, Central America.

Born in a poor polygamous family of 10 children, Malumbo lost her father in 2014 when she was 18. This affected her education because her poor mother could not provide enough through a business of distilling and selling Kachaso (liquor) in Mzuzu’s populous Masasa Township. But the support was not enough.

Now regarded as a shining star, Malumbo has gone through thin and thick more especially during her primary and secondary school days.

“Before I was picked on CAMFED bursary, going to school on an empty stomach, without required school materials and pocket money was part of my life.

“I’m the first child in our family to attain university education since others could not manage to reach even secondary level due to lack of school fees and other requirements,” Malumbo explains.

She adds that it is her determination to succeed that propelled her through secondary education before she was given the CAMFED bursary.

“When I want to do something, I set goals for myself and put all my efforts to achieve them. 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.

Malumbo believes gone are the days when the dream of a girl child was only limited to marriage, an institution that most young girls enter by force from parents for monetary and material gains from dowry (lobola).

Rising from a poor family, Malumbo says she is happy to have become a centre of inspiration to many girls including her siblings after overcoming many challenges.

“My young sister who was at Kaseye Girls Secondary School in Chitipa nearly dropped out because of a number of challenges. But upon hearing of my admission to an international university, she was motivated and she persevered.

“Now, she is in first year at Deayang University doing nursing and midwifery although we are not certain about her future there since my mother is struggling to source tuition fees for her from Kachaso sells,” she says.

Malumbo’s mother, Olifa Chisokwe, hails CAMFED for bailing out her daughter.

“I believe now my daughter has a big chance of attaining her desired goals in life,” says Chisokwe.

The mother adds that it was not easy to provide for her daughter’s secondary education through her business of Kachasu and the seasonal selling boiled fresh maize.

Despite the challenges she faces, Chisokwe has always encouraged her children to work hard in school.

“I don’t want them to continue going through another miserable life in their adulthood,” she says.

Chisokwe bemoans the conduct of some parents who encourage their children to drop out of school for marriage or to seek economic opportunities in South Africa.

“It is sad that some of these children that drop are on bursary and have the capacity to excel in education,” she says.

Senior Chief Mpherembe of Mzimba District commends Chisokwe for encouraging her daughters to work hard in school, saying gone are the days when parents were forcing girls to get married.

Mpherembe, who is also member of CAMFED Community Development Committee (CDC), says the increased number of girls dropping out of school for marriage despite being on bursary is a threat to the country’s development.

“As a country, we need well educated people who can propel our economy to greater heights,” the senior chief says.  

Mzimba North CAMFED District Operations Officer Henry Tembo say Malumbo has made the organisation proud.

“She is now a star in Mzimba North because she is the only girl that 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 for a motivation speech to fellow girls,” Tembo says.

He implores on girls in the country, more especially those on CAMFED bursary, to learn from Malumbo’s determination to rise and shine.

Launched in Malawi in 2009, CAMFED is an international non-profit organization that tackles poverty and inequality by supporting marginalized girls to go to school and succeed.  It also empowers women in assuming roles of leadership for change.

Tembo says the organisation will continue assisting needy girls with all school needs such as 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 and made us proud,” Tembo says.

For Malumbo Mkandawire, she hopes that her studies in agricultural engineering degree programme will not only be of great benefit to her only but even to society through.

She aspires to open a commercial farm whose proceeds will trickle down to many people in her community.

“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,” Malumbo says.