Theirs is a tale of resilience and determination as mother and daughter sat the Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) examinations and passed with flying colours. Dropping out of school to have Chitsanzo while in Form Three did not hamper Elizabeth, 37, to follow her dreams, even if it meant sitting in the same class with her daughter. Having scooped 27 points and her daughter six, she tells us her story.
Tell us more about yourself.
My name is Elizabeth Kwawilira (nee Mayani). I am happily married to James kwawilira. He is a businessman at Mponela Trading Centre in Dowa and together we are blessed with five children. Currently, I am working with Mponela Savings and Credit Cooperatives (Sacco)
I understand you wrote the Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) examinations alongside your daughter.
I inded wrote the examinations alongside my daughter, Chitsanzo, who scooped six points. She has been helping me in my studies and it has come as no surprise that I scored 27 points. Chitsanzo Kwawilira is among the girls who have been awarded a scholarship to study in China after getting six points. I could not ask for more.
Did you ever attend secondary education?
Yes. I was at St. Mary’s Secondary School up to Form 3 when I fell pregnant and I later enrolled at Madisi secondary School in 1997 where I scooped 40 points. I later went to Dowa Secondary School from where I have reduced my points. I am excited.
How old were you when you had her?
I was 18 years old and naïve. It came as a huge shock for me. I really believed this baby would be my end but God works in mysterious ways. I never married Chitsanzo’s father.
What happened for you to conceive when you were in school?
I cannot blame anybody but admit it was due to peer pressure. My fellow students whom I called friends at St Mary’s Secondary School deceived me to engage in boy-girl relationships and in the end I ended up being pregnant. The type of company we keep plays a big part in who we become or what happens to us.
Tell me the story when you delivered the baby and where you were after that?
I was living with my grandparents at Makanga Village in the Traditional Authority (T/A) Chakhaza in Dowa. When I dropped out, I went back to Makanga to deliver Chitanzo. I let my grandparents down as any girl in my situation does to their families.
What was the experience for you, in particular reactions from schoolmates, family and friends?
Some students, especially boys, used to call me all sorts of names such as “masiteni”. I was not amused with such names but I still befriended them because they would help me in the absence of my daughter, Chitsanzo. I was also a laughing stock to my friends as they said it was a waste of time and resources to return to school.
At what age did you think of going back to school?
When I was 32 years old. I knew that without education, my future was doomed. I was fortunate to have returned to school. That is why I decided to go for a second attempt after I scooped 40 points initially. I was determined to aim higher.
What was your experience of returning to school after delivery and marriage?
I beat the odds of the negativity. Despite being jeered at, I stood my ground and decided never to be discouraged by the disparaging remarks that I got from the people. I told myself that I could accomplish my goals with determination. I changed my mindset to differ from those around me.
Looking back to where you are coming from, is there anything you would change if you were to turn back the hands of time?
Given the chance to go back to school I would make sure that I associate with the right people because I have learned that the students I was associating with were not serious with school. I have learned that there is negative and positive peer pressure. Pupils need guidance and help in picking friends. I learned the hard way.
How was it like learning with your daughter?
I had no problems at all. I have been privileged to be helped by my daughter. Chitanzo too benefitted from my constant supervision from hanging around her all the time as she could not engage in indiscipline.
How do you feel about the achievement of your daughter?
My daughter’s performance has made me proud. I can now walk tall. God has answered my prayers. I have always wanted the best for her.
What do you plan to do know following the result?
I plan to sit for the University of Malawi entrance examinations. If successful, I have always dreamt of going to Bunda College of Agriculture because most of my relations are farmers.
What are your last words?
I would like to express my gratitude to my husband and relatives for the role they played in raising Chitsanzo. I would like to encourage girls to work hard in class if they are to excel in life. To my fellow women who dropped out of school because of marriage or early pregnancy, I want to say all is not lost. While some may say that we cannot cry over spilt milk, I say they can because with education, it is possible.