By Lulutani Tembo
Chikondi Mjojo wants to be a police officer when she completes her education. She works hard in school and is determined to give something back to her community. However, the high school student from southern Malawi had problems at home and was struggling to keep up with her school work.
After her parents divorced, she moved in with her father. But when he remarried, he went to live with his new wife, leaving Chikondi and her siblings alone. Without money to pay her school fees, Chikondi was forced to drop out. The situation seemed hopeless. But then something happened that changed Chikondi’s life: she got a UNICEF scholarship. “I was so ecstatic,” she says.
Chikondi’s journey from hardship to triumph began when her parents split up. At the time she was still in primary school. “My mom had moved away and we decided I should stay with my father so I could continue my education since the school was not too far from our home.” At first the new arrangement worked well. Her parents were getting along despite their divorce and Chikondi was regularly attending school. But then her father moved away to live with his new wife, leaving Chikondi and her siblings fend for themselves. To survive, they had to farm the small piece of land they were living on. With no help from her father, Chikondi sold vegetables so the children had money to buy other essentials.
“My father hardly spoke to us and lived very far. Even before he left the house, he made studying hard for me because he would take the torch with him when going to visit his wife. To make it worse this would happen during exam time. I struggled to study.” Chikondi says there were many times when she had no food to eat and she went to bed on an empty stomach. “One time, when I asked him for food he told me to look for a boyfriend to support me. I was so saddened by what he said. I remember telling my grandmother about it. I told her that even though I was going to school under difficult circumstances, I still wanted to continue learning.”
Despite her struggles, Chikondi was selected to begin high school at Thunga CDSS. But after she wasn’t able to pay her school fees she was sent home for the term. “When I started first term my mother wanted to help, but she has so many responsibilities. When she finally found money for my fees, she attempted to send it to me but unfortunately, the money didn’t reach me.” Chikondi said the money was given to someone she knew who lived near her father. But when the person couldn’t find her the money was given to her father. “My dad used the money for other things instead, so my fees were never paid.”
After being home, Chikondi returned to school in second term when her mother scrapped the money together to pay her fees. “When I went back to school, everything seemed a bit unfamiliar. It was even hard for me to make friends because of the one term I missed.” To catch up on her studies, Chikondi borrowed books and notes from my classmates. The hard work paid off when she was able to pass an important test not long after she returned to school.
Then, in her third term, Chikondi got some good news: She received a scholarship, sponsored by a charity that works with UNICEF called the K.I.N.D. Fund. “Without this sponsorship I would’ve probably dropped out of school, or even end up in an early marriage because I’d have nothing to do at home. And when I told my mom she didn’t believe me. She was so happy, she said that is God working. The bursary lifts a massive burden off her shoulders. She encouraged me to work hard and stay focused on school”.
UNICEF has provided scholarships to girls at secondary schools throughout Malawi since 2014. K.I.N.D. (Kids In Need of Desks) works to empower school children in Malawi by providing school desks to improve learning environments, and scholarships to allow girls to attend secondary school. Girls from poor backgrounds are supported with tuition fees, learning materials, school bags, uniforms, sanitary pads and shoes.
Malawi is a developing country and over half the population are children, so they are the future of this country,” UNICEF Education Specialist Kimanzi Muthengi says. “In the 2017/2018 academic year, 5,585 girls were supported with scholarships from UNICEF through the KIND Fund. If girls are well educated, this offers tremendous hope for a brighter future.”
Joyce Chindipha, the headteacher at Thunga CDSS, said she was pleased that fund was assisting Chikondi. “Chikondi has benefitted greatly. This scholarship will her help a lot,” Joyce says. “She is very eager to learn. She is determined to do well and continue with education.”
This month Chikondi will begin a new year of school. “Now that I have this scholarship I can now focus on school and getting good grades. I think I have a good future ahead of me. Hopefully, I’ll realise my dream of becoming a police officer. I am thankful for this bursary. I hope they can also pay for other girls so they can also have a bright future like me.”