While much of our efforts when it comes to encouraging literacy in the country mainly focuses on girls by, for instance, supporting child bribes to return to schools, it’s also worth asking ourselves honest questions on the quality of education our children are getting. Things like bad infrastructure, congestion and lack of adequate learning and teaching materials are some of the challenges.
And when you consider levels of poverty in rural areas, lack of role models and encouragement from the parents, long distance to schools and sometimes lack of parental support and guidance, the possibility of these children attaining good quality education is further reduced. But one young Malawian author use his own story to reveal some of these obstacles and challenge the society to change their mentality on education and poverty.
Published in October last year by Passion Centre , the 24-year-old University of Livingstonia bachelors of education graduate, Prophet Dauda details his own struggles as he came to terms with growing up with one parent while his father, himself a police officer, was in prison and later a sense of betrayal as his father abandoned the family upon being released.
“It was in the 1990s. Our family was transported in a government car from Lilongwe… to here, our village,” writes Dauda. “Our father’s hands and legs were in shackles sitting in the middle of a few policemen armed to the teeth.”
In the book, Dauda draws our attention to the typical rural African upbringing where family histories are rarely recorded or shared save for tidbits from grandparents.
“Neither my father and mother nor my brothers and sisters had a diary recording our family experiences. In fact, my family never valued such things. As long as we ate and moved on to the next sunrise, everything was fine,” he wrote.
Typical of a single parent family, the book reveals huge burdens women face while raising children on their own highlighting how his mother switched from selling one merchandise to another to support the family.
“But if I say that selling Mandasi was a permanent income-generating activity for her, surely I will be telling a lie. She even switched to being a banana seller, to a sugarcane seller, to a crop seed seller, to a groundnuts seller. Anything.”
Moreover, just like in the western world Dauda shows us that even in the African society, the issue of class is just as strong.
“Kids at my age or younger were attending a nursery school, Tiyeseko Nursery School at the Mkalyainga Residence, on the other side of the dusty road.”
“Seriously I tell you, life on the other side of the road was different. It was as if the dusty road separated people depending on their social status. Maybe it was a yardstick for the social stratification of the people of the land in which I was raised. On that bank of the road, land was privately owned and leased while on our side, it was publicly owned.”
But it will be unfair to leave out some of ‘his heroes’ who through their assistance opened the door to his education. At first, the writer met with Mrs Kapindura, the owner of nursery school who through her relationship with his mother got him into the school for free. Then after the death of his mother when he was in primary school one teacher, Mrs Ntaukira, helped him and his brother with clothes and school materials. He would later meet pastor Eric who mentored him during the time he was at the orphanage and later got assisted through his secondary and college education.
“In this life those who help you are not only your blood relatives. The creator purposely planted some people in our amidst, not connected to us in any way, but they have an effect on our lives,” reads part of the memoir.
While appreciating the support of various individuals and institutions to reach where he is today, Dauda acknowledges his own passion and hard work in attempt to get education in spite of different challenges.
“At some point people find themselves on a battlefield…. But how each one of them stages the fight determines the winner and loser. All of us orphaned kids were on a battlefield of poverty. A kid who fought with a dream and vision came out a winner,” he writes.
Dauda is currently a language teacher at Henry Henderson Institute (HHI) Secondary School in Blantyre. His first novel, Prophet’s Tale provides a good read, interweaving person experience and the major social problems our society has, in a simple, direct but compelling language. The book is currently available on Amazon.