When I first met Mwai Banda some five year ago, little did I know that she would experience a significant transformation thanks to support from Join My Village.
Mwai Banda, and four of her classmates, were in grade eight at Santhe primary school, when I first met her and they often talked about their dreams. The girls, Mwai, along with Fadei Banda, Tiyamike Banda, Flora Manyusa and Vanessa Banda, were inspired by the educational materials that Join My Village had provided to their primary school and they promised themselves and each other that they would pass the national examination and proceed to secondary school and become accountants, lawyers and nurses one day. Despite dreaming in colour, the girls were not sure how they would pay their school fees when they were selected to attend secondary school.
Mwai talks about the challenges that girls in Malawi face while trying to receive an education:
“Of course, I spoke with confidence that I wanted to become a nurse one day but deep down in my heart, I had no reliable source of fees and that kept bothering me,” reveals Mwai Banda. The good news came with the bad news; Mwai and all four of her friends were accepted to attend Santhe Secondary school however her father also told her that she could not attend due to lack of money. “My father told me that he had no fees readily available for me. So, he told me to give him some time to look for the money. I had to stay home for more than a week and, out of anger, I just thought of reporting for school with or without fees,” said Mwai.
To show her zeal for education, Mwai walked 2km (1 mile) from home to school every day while her father was still looking for her fees. Days turned into weeks and still no money was available. One day, however, there was a glimmer of hope: “I was about to be chased from school because my parents hadn’t paid for my fees when my mum came back from a VSLA meeting with some money which she used to pay for my day schooling. I was happy but still wanted to be in boarding so that I have ample time to study,” she recalls.
Rather than depend on her parents alone, Mwai recalled from her days at Santhe Primary School that Join My Village might be able to help and reminded her mother of the program’s activities. Immediately, Mwai’s mother approached Join My Village staff, the School Management Committee (SMC), and Parent Teacher Association (PTA) committee and presented her daughter’s situation. Mwai was immediately picked for a Join My Village four year scholarship program.
Soon after, Mwai was invited to pack her things and move to a boarding. “The day I received the news about my inclusion into scholarship program shall remain an unforgettably great day in my life. It is a day that gave me hope that I can now achieve. I promised myself to work hard be a role model to my younger sister,” she says.
Mwai arrived at Santhe secondary school as a young, shy girl, but today, four years later, she is returning as a leader, a mentor and model. Mwai has learned to speak with confidence and will give guidance and advice where necessary thanks to the assertiveness training she received from Join My Village. Mwai was also trained to be a mentor among her peers and these skills have helped her to be voted the school Library prefect.
“If it were not for Join My Village, who knows, I would have been married just as some of my friends who used to be in the same class did!” she tells me. Mwai recalls that some of her friends who were with her in primary and secondary school have gotten married and have children. It is obvious that Mwai’s path will be different.
After sitting for her final four year National Secondary School Examination in July, Mwai plans to start a small business of baking and selling flitters. “While waiting for my results, I will not just sit at home. I will find time to be reading various books to keep my memory fresh and at the same time bake and sell flitters,” she concludes.