For my mother

Chisomo Ngulube and Lucy Kachapila

She was born to Yao parents in the late 50s and consequently grew up in the early 60s.

The prevailing expectation from family and peers at the time was that she would find a suitor just after puberty.

But my mother had other ideas, she was fascinated by education. She knew she had to get out of the village and its Kachasu brewing and drinking way of life.

To this date she does not understand why, how and where she got such a resolve and motivation because she says there was no one to look up to.

She told the boys she found repeating the final grade as was the custom of those days that she would not be joining their ranks and indeed, she was selected to Lilongwe Girls Secondary School after just one attempt.

Her father a devout Moslem and a tailor had barely enough to support her education and that of her many other siblings but he tolerated his daughter’s ambitions up to Secondary School.

When she was selected to Kamuzu College of Nursing of the University of Malawi, he blatantly told her that he could not support her anymore, after all he had taken on another wife and had little children to fend for.

To him, an MSCE was enough education for a girl. But it was not for my mother, she yearned to drink more and more from the cup of knowledge until she got her PhD a few ago.

Today, I pay tribute to her resolve and that of other women from her era who chose to defy the expectations and stereotypes of their time to pursue their dreams.

I pay tribute to a woman who did not have to tell me what to do because she led by example and; children learn better from what they see you doing than from what you tell them to do.

I pay tribute to Mrs Lucy Kachapila because it is true what they say that when you educate a girl you educate the world. Even her father who is still alive and her late mother would always salute the power of sending girls to school.

“Amayi anu ndi azi chemwali awo ndi amene akundigwira mkono chifukwa ndinawaphunzitsa sukulu, [your mother and her sisters are the ones holding my hand because I sent them to school],” he always says when I visit.

Thanks to my mother, I did not face the struggle that other girls have to go through because my mother broke the chains.

And because my work as a journalist has taken me to places across the country, I use every opportunity to preach the gospel according to girls’ education because I know what it does.

For every year that a girl spends particularly in secondary school, she reduces her chances of getting pregnant or married before the age of 18. And we know the consequences and complications that come with early marriage and early pregnancy.

Global statistics also show that for every year a girl stays in school, her income increases by 15 to 25 percent. And that she will go on to use 90 percent of that income invest in future generations-her family.

It is therefore no wonder, that children of educated women are more than twice likely to send their children to school (zidzikawanika okha) as the example of my mother has demonstrated.

Oh! And she taught me to is too short she always says.