As I finish this race

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Two years is such a long time, especially for someone you only met for a week. A week of scanty talks, you can be justified that you’ve forgotten their name.

I might have forgotten the name, but I remember it was on the second week of school, in the computer library as our Media design and layout lecturer was plying his trade, an art he mastered so well…

“You, get out of my class!” he burst.

Slowly my friend walked out of class. That was how his university dream crashed. But the chase from class did not chase him from school.

It was just an echo of the misfortune he was.  Chifundo, Chisomo or Madalitso might have been his name. His name was an inspiring Christian name, an irony of the future he had.

We shared something in common; a determination that a university education would give us a new song. In those few days we shared our miseries. He was from Chikhwawa, myself from Salima.

He narrated to me a tale of how he had heard about the Diploma in Journalism program being offered at what in the next two days I’ll call my alma mater. Of how he applied and got accepted just like myself, like the rest of us.  But, there was something he didn’t get right.

My friend, let’s call him that for now, thought the K90, 000 school fees included boarding and accommodation. He had made arrangements to stay at a friend’s place in Chilobwe until he pays fees and is given a room on campus.

No! That was wrong.

Upon registration the truth rained on him. 90 000 was tuition. Everyone was supposed to find their bed and food. All he had was K90, 000. The amount he had earned through peace works.

The time he entered the classroom the day he was chased out, he wasn’t there necessarily to learn for the end of semester exam. Just to have a feel of the university and return to Chikhwawa the ‘grace period’ granted by his host expires.

“Sam, I am going back home. There’s nothing else I can do”, with an empty voice he told me after waiting for two hours that we meet after the class.

I was equally hopeless. I mean what do you say when you are dancing to the same song, just with different tempos.

Today is the last to identify myself as a Diploma in Journalism student at the Malawi Polytechnic. Thinking of my first day reminds me of the first person I called a friend here. Someone who had a vision like me. But circumstances strangled the dream before birth.

That hasn’t been my story.

Comfortably I have sailed through my college life. Of course with some academic disputes which I had to settle with my Science teachers (Don’t ask for more because I don’t have answers, Lol).

My failure to appreciate the support I received from a million people will be doing injustice to the friend I described above. A friend whom maybe with an equal of the support I had could manage to graduate with a distinction and transform his Chikwawa as I move south to impact my Salima.

It’s not always the best thing to do, but there are some people am greatly indebted to. The 2012 Salima Progressio ICS Team, a great people who saw a visionary in me and though of thrusting me higher, led by John. Plus a thousand others I never met.  Am grateful.

Even with all the money in the world, others have ever gone astray, that’s why I thank Danneck for being a father, pastor, friend, mentor and advisor to me.  A role model.

Anais Bertrand, a young lady who’s academic and professional I highly admire.  There are a million others who gave all they had that I get the good that a university student deserves. This piece is for you.

24 months is such a long time for one to spend without making friends. After awarding me a paper for studying for two years, the university thought of giving me an extra reward, that’s John Namalenga Junior. Vyalema Kaluluma Phiri, Miss Ezelina Kamaliza. Studying at the university at the same time you did is a thing I will never take for coincidence.

To sum it up, there’s this pintsized young man.  He tells me, everyone who learnt English can write, but for someone to read an article to the 23rd paragraph it needs style and several ingredients.  So he’s teacher who never took me through formal class but through his writings and mentoring I am writing today. Dave Namusanya, in your class I will never graduate because you always have something new.

My long lost friend might be somewhere in his native Chikwawa farming or doing anything, but am writing from my office desk where I’ll be interning for the next 3 months.

I finish this journey with mixed thoughts. Happy for those us who have run it well, Sad for a million others whose pockets were too weak to survive two years.

For in a war there are many battles, this one is won. But the war rages on. We shall overcome, someday.

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Wait, we have a nation to build, rebuild.

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Let’s rebuild for this next generation.

Be afraid when the kwacha accelerates at a pace matching Usain Bolt’s. On the other hand, Nyasas are busy jesting over one prophet’s drollery.

A people have to be scared when the leaderships seems to have completely lost contact with reality on the ground, or to use the late Muckraker’s phrase; when  our governors seems to have ‘juggled priorities’.

Having limped out of a fortnight with an equal share of comedy, I write to give one more reason why as a nation we should be on our knees, perhaps we have already been knocked to the ground, economically.

It is very sad that at a time when international bodies are tiring trying to make our country a better place, it’s evident the inhabitants aren’t interested in any in-house cleansing activities, if radio phone inn programs and social media updates are to be the scaling measure.

The rate at which service delivery is pacing, leaves one wondering whether we are on autopilot or there’s indeed someone in control of this plane called Malawi.

One realises that we are lost when the entire Ministry of Health signs letters directing nursing graduates they can now go to their respective working posts, only to wake up a week later to say the government, of which the MoH is a branch of, does not have money to pay them.

What kind of stuff is being puffed by the people up there? Perhaps the legalisation of industrial hemp has come too early.

And the irony of recalling qualified nurses who could help reduce our 17:1000 patient to nurse ratio, while huge sums of money are spent on shoppers masquerading as state delegation on their spree to New York.

Our drama is unending especially when one learns that out of the 15 million plus Malawians, no one seems to be sure of how many people were on  the entourage that had escorted our leader.

Everyone has their own number, 15, 20, 111, or 115, it just depends on whose mouth is speaking, and which plate that mouth got its breakfast from, this is sickening too.

Our drama is far from ending, especially when one realises that we comfortably elected a bunch of fault finding mechanics to act as members of the opposition. A team that has specialised with pointing fingers at the governing party; “This is wrong”, “That is bad”, “The budget is bloated”. Solutions?  Vote for us come 2019, sigh! This free for all comic book will never be closed.

Someday, I wrote of a 26 year old young man who is rotting at Maula for stealing K200, 000 from his shop owner boss in Lumbadzi. The just judge slapped this filthy thief with a 14 year jail term, yes! Thieves have to be severely punished, that others learn that taking someone’s money without consent is a depravity.

But wait, it’s not always a perversion. What matters is the venue, who owns what you have stolen and what’s your name.

As the lad is decaying at Maula, lighter sentences, or let’s just say freedom is being served to those rightly positioned. Our trust is busted when justice is raped, violently and mercilessly ravished by those entrusted with the wig.

All around us we are in thick darkness. As citizens, we have nowhere to run.

But as noted by Swiss-French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau in ‘The Social Contract’; as soon as any man says of the affairs of the state, “what does it matter to me?” the state may be given up for lost.

Whether blue, green, orange, yellow or whatever colour one dons, it’s time to prioritise Malawi.

I might not have been there during the 80’s. But am informed of how common people used to enjoy the luxury of double deck buses, which today are reserved for the high class. Sad!

We are all in a moving train called Malawi, but no one minds that our caravan is moving backwards. It’s time we accepted that we have one Malawi, we have one leader, at least for now.

Even if no one will be “proudly Malawian”, they won’t cease from being a Nyasa. For if this 51 year old ship sinks, we all drown together.

50 plus years after breaking away from those we agreed were our oppressors, it’s time we rebuilt this house.

For a Nachisale, the timeless fruit tree

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In frustration I contemplate shutting my laptop. Switching off lights.  Forget that my blog needs an entry for this day. Not before I crave to respond to a few Whatsapp texts.

Then something pops up. Besides Lucius Banda’s ‘Mayi Zembani’ playing in the background, I remember one incident I still cherish to this day.

On the day I was sent to buy some tomatoes at the market near our home. 10 kilometres away, we still said it was near, there was no other anyway.pon my return, the bicycle I used, the only precious item that our family owned developed a fault.

“I always say that this boy rides the bike carelessly as if he’s on some automotive” shouted my father.

A quite boy I was then, I couldn’t comprehend how the bicycle I had used to and from the market would choose to betray me and crumble just after arriving.

“But father, it’s true that am the one who just used the bike. But I didn’t notice any fault” it was an appeal in my own defence.

In vain I strived to buy my father’s belief that I did not cause the said damage to the family’s most valued possession.

All along mum had been quiet. She’s not the type that intervenes when dad talks to boys.  This time she surprised all of us.

“If you asked Sam and he said that he doesn’t know of the fault, believe him. If he had noticed it he would admit.” she spoke her truth, jumping to my defence.

A few minutes later, my young brother Shadreck comes enters the home as we are still talking of the bicycle damage.

Without even asking of what is being talked about he makes what would turn out to be a confession.

“When I took the bicycle yesterday, the bell was not working very well. After many attempts to repair it, I realised that I touched the line connecting to the breaks so they couldn’t work properly.” He said.

Mouth agape my father looked at mum.

One of the stories that I will live to remember about my mother, a Nachisale.

On this day I write this piece in English. A language she can’t read. But why I am I writing?

Because when I was in primary school she would say to me and my 3 school going siblings; “You must work hard at school so that you should get good jobs and speak good English”

Now I can speak English, not good English though. Of the job, I might get one after school.

Today, 15th October 2015 I write this for a Nachisale. The tree which gives fruits even in the driest of seasons.

A woman who told me that inside me there’s greatness. A lady who never went past standard 5, but encouraged me to get a college education.

To a Nachisale and a million other angels out there I say; No matter the struggle that we face, the class battle that we face, someday you shall reap the fruits of your labour.

For a starter, you have this piece written in English as you always dreamt; having a son who could write in the Queen’s language.

Happy Mother’s day to you all!

Starving. Serving. Saving.

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Even in his weirdest dreams, never did it come that such misery would accompany the white raiment. In his early days the ‘angels’ uniform symbolised glory, not only the praises he would gain from the society, his pockets would also benefit.

That was then, before reality had sunk into him.  The last time he questioned his Clinic supervisor why he had gone four months without pay, the usual answer followed: “There is no funding at the District Commissioner’s office, you should wait for the new budget.”

He is a civil slave anyway, a maid of the common people. As he awaits the new budget the hospital still has two nurses to cater for a population of 30,000. He is a faithful slave, he will still wait for the new budget while conducting an average of 40 to 50 deliveries per week. After all it’s his profession, a wet dream he had always nursed.

‘Heavy’ women will come to him seeking advice on nutrition and he expertly instructs them on how to prepare meat products; the same meat he hasn’t had for 3 months because the people’s government is not honouring its part of the deal.

The last time I pitied him in a calm and tired voice he responded, “Ndiye dziko lathuli limenelo.”  His voice, drained of all energy, did not just address me. It questioned society. In mockery. In sadness. He expressed how the colourful thoughts he harboured had been forced into oblivion by those supposed to support them; the government.

As our conversation was drawing to the end, the midday news bulletin signature signalled, at last it was time to hear progress of the country’s ongoing cash plunder scandal which almost everyone was tired of the state’s snail-paced prosecution of suspects.

“The Lilongwe magistrates court has ordered the state to return money and assets belonging to one of the Cashgate suspects who has been discharged from charges of money laundering and unlawful possession of foreign currency…He was arrested last year after being found with K3 million in the boot of a car at Capitol Hill and $25,400 at his house. The court has decided to acquit the suspect following the State’s unwillingness to prosecute him.”

Sigh! Millions gone, without trace; the way dew evaporates.

Meanwhile posh cars congest our tattered and bruised roads; mansions mushroom in weeks and the deluxe of overseas holidays is being enjoyed by those strategically positioned. As for pals who dreamt of walking majestically in hospital corridors while putting on a white coat, our mentors who aspired to hold chalk in their hands and rub the dust off our ignorant minds, they are truly living their dreams or nightmares. For, what is a dream without a reward?

From Africa, with a new perspective

On the mention of one word, ‘Africa’ what comes into your mind? Stunted malnourished children with flies all over, corrupt leaders who have ransacked their economies, maybe a begging continent holding an empty bowl. Perhaps that’s what we have been accustomed to.

For 24 year old Julie Judd it’s all different:

“People think of poverty when they think of Africa, but there is more to the continent than the stereotype. We can help solve her problems by first understanding the people. Rather than poverty, Africa should be defined by the warmth and love of its people.”

The American missionary who is a teacher by profession observed this during her three weeks tour of Malawi where, together with her friend Holly Ann, visited two sites in Malawi operating under the umbrella body of Urban Promise International, a USA based charity organisation.

The American missionary who is a teacher by profession observed this during her three weeks tour of Malawi where, together with her friend Holly Ann Diegel, visited two sites in Malawi operating under the umbrella body of Urban Promise International (UPI), a USA based charity organisation.

Holly admired how Malawians value their interpersonal relationship in comparison to material possessions.

“Malawians are a people who demonstrate that community life is more important than material wealth. This is something long lost in the West.”

The duo first visited Rise Malawi Ministries in Madisi, Dowa, before trekking down to the lakeshore district of Salima where they spent a week working at Cornerstone Ministries Malawi.

Cornerstone Ministries Malawi Executive Director Danneck Falinya hailed the trip as very important to the ministry as it has served to strengthen the ties between UPI and its Malawi affiliates.

“As an organisation we are also grateful for the time they have spent working with our team here. Their input has been so immense and we have learnt a lot from them,” he said.

After completing their work in Malawi, the two missionaries left with a promise to fly back home with one message: ‘despite the suffering, Africa is a continent replete with hope.’

Holly and Julie
Holly and Julie

JULY APPLE

 

Apple

 
Standing three people ahead of him as they queued for the meal, her presence lit up the room.Facedown he moved averting any eye contact, but her image couldn’t be effaced from his memory.
“I have never known you as one who shrinks from contact with others, why this quietude?…”
A husky voice from behind whisked him from the fantasy world he formed the first time he stared at her.
“Speak to me my friend, what is troubling you?” the friend queried in a manner of a persistent teacher who strives to get at least a nod from a ‘no idea’ student.
He was still not certain whether it was his cerebrum working or its role had been overpowered by her beauty.
“My friend…” he started. Yamikani turned to him eager to hear what had numbed his mesho.
“Wake up! wake up! kwacha!”, mum screamed.
It was all just dream.
Maybe she exists, perhaps not. The July Apple

INSPIRING A THOUSAND GENERATIONS

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The Klesis Team

In telling his incredible story of success, 20 year old Prince Jonathan Chirwa does not tell it exclusive of Klesis Education Initiative.

“Due to lack of guidance on what career path to follow, I realised that the field I was in was not suiting me well,” he starts telling his story which, in a way, is the story of Klesis Education Initiative. “I managed to get some distinctions in my pre-med year at the University of Malawi’s College of Medicine but my heart was not satisfied. I always wanted to study something which would go along with my passion.”

Thus, in pursuing his passion he cast the net wider and applied for a degree in Biochemistry at McGill University in Canada. Beside him was the mentoring from the Klesis Education Initiative – urging him on, provoking his thoughts, perfecting his application.

For the past 30 years, there has been a plea for a need of mentoring young people in the country so that they have a picture of career prospects that exist after their secondary education, and the ladders they need to climb to attain them.

The problem has been heightened by the sprouting of several private colleges as students yearn for any new institution in town without giving a thorough thought to career prospects.

It may seem as an easy task if you happen to be one lucky chap who had well informed guardians who held your hand through the career decision making time.

It is not the same with a million broken souls who commute our roads going to work every morning just to earn a living and fulfil responsibilities that society has exerted upon them as fathers, mothers, uncles and aunts.

A deep interaction with these responsible career men and women, you will learn with sadness the regrets they harbour deep within because they are working in a field they never dreamed of.

This shows how lack of guidance on career choices can affect one’s journey through life. Due to lack of mentorship, today we have several frustrated employees. The lack of personal satisfaction among employees affects their attitude to work.

Agnes Gogo Wizi is one brave lady who refuses to let students’ dreams suffer a brutal death. Through a mentorship organisation dubbed Klesis Education initiative, she has assembled a group of university graduates to inspire the wearing souls of young people.

Klesis which means ‘responding to a call’ has so far reached out to more than a hundred young people in the country.

“I reached Form four without any knowledge on what to do after completion of secondary school. This ignorance affected my career choice. It was only after I joined college when I realised that there’s a wide choice of careers that I could have pursued,” she says.

The tutor cites her poor mentorship background as the ignition of her passion to stand out and help other youths that they avoid undergoing her ordeal.

Agnes, a 2010 Bachelor of Education in Humanities graduate from University of Malawi’s Chancellor College who also holds a Master’s degree in International Social work from the University of Durham challenges fellow graduates that every effort invested in mentorship is not wasted as her own have started bearing fruits.

“So far, we have coached a good number of young people for both local and international opportunities. Our biggest achievement came within the first year of the initiative’s inception, where four of our mentees were awarded fully funded scholarships to study at various international universities in America,” narrates Wizi with a case in point being Chirwa as the evidence that all can see.

Jonathan Chirwa sat for his Malawi School Certificate of Education in 2012 at St. Patricks Secondary school and got 10 points.

After sitting for the University of Malawi Entrance Examinations, he was selected to pursue a degree in Medical Laboratory Sciences at the College of Medicine.

He studied for an entire year before he realised that he had chosen the program just because many people stereotype good points with the medicine practice. He started thinking of an alternative.

Chirwa’s craving for a different field led him into the hands of Klesis Education Initiative mentors. With the help of his mentors, he is now on a fully funded MasterCard Foundation scholarship.

Looking back during his time at the College of Medicine, Chirwa muses that many young people are afraid of taking the road less travelled and, as a result, they waste their lives studying things they hardly like.

“There should really be a need for mentorship programmes, to open the eyes of the young to wider opportunities. The mentorship I received helped me stay focused, realise my passion and do the scholarship application in easy steps while dreaming big,” he concludes.

Jonathan is not the only beneficiary of the Klesis Education Initiative, the 2015 MasterCard Foundation scholarship has also fished out three youths to study Agriculture Engineering at Earth University in Costa Rica. Another star is Noel Beyard who has secured a scholarship to Arizona State University to pursue an Economics and Global Agriculture degree.

As much as there is a need for personal mentors, others think students can have their best mentors through their teachers. Teachers being the people who know a student’s performance they can be in a better position in guiding young people in career choices.

Education expert Dr. Steve Sharra admits that mentorship is very crucial in a student’s development.

“Mentorship is very important in education because of how complicated knowledge and the education system has become nowadays. Students need guidance not only in academic decisions but in life generally,” argues Sharra.

Sharra who is Director for Link Community Development points out that half of those teaching secondary schools were not trained to teach in secondary schools. So these teachers do not have the ability to mentor their students.

Nevertheless there are other teachers who are well equipped for mentorship but lack of morale affects their delivery.

For instance, it is not a strange phenomenon that a Malawian teacher is always the last to get their pay.

“Teachers do not feel appreciated. Many teachers who have the ability to mentor are nursing a deep anger from the way they are treated. You can’t expect people who feel unappreciated to have the motivation to mentor students,” says Sharra.

However, in the midst of that gap, a young lady has emerged to act as a guiding light to the young people with dreams, hopes and aspirations.

*The article was first published on Malawi online news source Malawi24.com.