— By Lena from Malawi
Growing up in a middle-class family, I used to think we lacked a lot of things which when I grew up, I realised were luxury. Mid-density area, well-furnished house, both parents having modest jobs and going to modest schools, seemed like a way of life and nothing else really mattered. Never in my wildest dreams did it occur to me that some lack even the basic needs, let alone school fees, despite how bright and zealous they might be about Education. For someone like me, education was something I had to do because my parents wouldn’t allow me to ditch school and loaf around. Little did I know what others are going through just to attend college.
Working for an organisation that defends the rights of women, youths, children, and people with disability, I am a defender of the rights of these target audiences and in the process realised my dream of empowering the youths. Having thought of helping the youths on some deeper level, of which I haven’t had the opportunity to establish my own organisation or film that is mainly into empowering the youths, I got a job that I enjoy doing.
Having worked for 10 years, I have never felt satisfied on the job like I feel now, and I realise it is because I can finally do what I am passionate about. This feeling of satisfaction made me realise that working should be more than just a pay check.
Within a short time, I’ve realised youths between the ages of 18 and 35 are a bright bunch of youngsters who always have fascinating ideas and positive energy. They are a group of hopeful people who regardless of their backgrounds, lack of basic needs and care, look forward to fulfilling every plan they have envisioned.
Sitting at my desk one morning in June, with a mission to get done with that day’s task which was to finalise reviewing applications for candidates for a youth volunteer programme, I came across an application that caught my attention. From the application, I envisaged a bright boy who made people laugh. Meeting James Samson in a one-on-one interview, I established he was a bright boy who has experienced a tough upbringing but has never given up. Not only did he earn a spot in the volunteer programme, the opportunity opened doors for him to finish his education. Here is what Samson says:
“A third born of late Mr. and Mrs. Samson, I was born in Mangochi district, which is in the Southern part of Malawi, in tradition authority Chimwala in Kausi village. My mother is from Mangochi, while my father was from Karonga in the Northern part of Malawi, in the area of tradition authority Kilupula, in Iponga village.
Both of my parents had small businesses. In 2004, my father decided to take the family to his home village where 9 months down the line, he passed away after suffering a minor headache. Way of life made a back flip as my father’s uncle removed us from our house, and took away our family possessions. All this happened because my mother refused to go through a wife inheritance process, which is largely practiced in Karonga.”
A wife inheritance is commonly practiced in Malawi and has been called different names in the different cultures in Malawi: ‘Kuhara’ ‘Chokolo’ and ‘Kulowa Kufa’ are some of the names used. This practice allows a brother of the deceased to marry the widow. It has of late been a contentious issue in the wake of HIV & AIDS.
“Consequently, in 2007, my mother decided to take us back to Mangochi with the hope of things getting better. Unfortunately, conditions in Mangochi were not friendly either, and we struggled to survive. Amidst such an environment, in 2008, l was selected to Changali Community Day Secondary School, of which I worked extremely hard and scored 13 points in the Malawi School Certificate of Education and was selected to pursue a Bachelors of Education Social Studies at Chancellor College the University of Malawi. I was enrolled under the Government bursary until third year when the school fee was increase by 300% and the Government stopped the support and I couldn’t continue any more and had to temporarily withdraw.
After spending a year at home, things changed dramatically when l was recruited to participate in International Citizen Service Programme on a six-month placement as a team leader. Coincidentally, l was assigned to work in Zomba, a district where chancellor college is located. Through the stipend which l received, coupled with support from one of the lecturers from the college, l had been able to partially resume my studies at chancellor collage and l expect to finish my four-year studies by July 2018. Four years from now, l will be able to fully support my mother and my brothers as well as my community at large.
Life has taught me not to lose hope, as situations that may seem hard and hopeless turn out to be the core sources of next opportunities. Therefore, my message to youths is that they should not lose hope, and they should set more goals, even when everything seems to go against them.”
Nita Ambani says, and I quote, “Education is not a tool for development – individual, community, and the nation. It is the foundation for our future. It is empowerment to make choices and emboldens the youth to chase their dreams.”
Youth empowerment is my passion and am glad to have indirectly contributed to a youth’s success.