From her humble background in Lilongwe Rural West’s Nsalu area where she grew up, Esnart Mwale-Khasu became the first person to ever go to college from Kabuthu Community Day Secondary School (CDSS).
Although this was her closest school, she, just like many others in rural Malawi had to walk for over an hour to get to school, often attending classes while tired.
Despite all this, Esnart worked hard and was always among the top 10 in class.
It was of no surprise, therefore, that out of all the candidates who sat for Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) at the school in 2003, she was the only one with good grades, with an aggregate of 19 points. However, she failed English.
And so in 2004, she decided to re-sit English as an external candidate at the same school. She passed and qualified for the university entrance examinations.
“It was the first time in the history of the school to produce a student qualified for university entrance examinations that year. People do pass but not with grades that can take them to university,” explains Esnart.
But when she finally sat for university entrance examinations, she did not make the selection into University of Malawi.
Her only other option was to try her luck at Domasi College of Education in Zomba.
So in the same year, she sat for Domasi College of Education entrance examinations and was lucky to be shortlisted.
Esnart later started her diploma studies in education in 2006 and graduated in March 2009.
Being the first child from her family and her village to go to college served as a great motivation to her siblings and other family members.
“They came to believe that success comes through hard work and they saw it worth emulating and began to work hard. Some of them have achieved academic success as well,” she explains.
Upon graduating, Esnart went into teaching the same year at Zomba Catholic Secondary School, becoming an inspiration for many girls in her home area.
“They were impressed that one can make it regardless of circumstances and got encouraged. Some even began working hard in their academic studies. I became their role model,” she says.
In 2017, the teacher who in her free time likes to listen to music and take her two children out for walks, decided to upgrade and pursue bachelors studies.
She enrolled with the Catholic University of Malawi (Cunima) from where she graduated in September 2019 with distinction.
One would wonder what inspired her to work so hard when she could well have just found a man and got married just like all her friends in the neighbourhood did.
But the mother of two says the hard life she experienced as a young girl compelled her to wake up and define her destiny.
“I came to believe that only education could help me get out of the challenges I was facing. My father, too, wanted us to be educated and he kept on encouraging us to work hard in school. He often told us that it was only education that could get us out of poverty and I believed that,” the history teacher says.
But coming this far has been a journey of perseverance as she had to overcome so many challenges.
Esnart cites society demands as one of such challenges as she grew up in a society where Nyau culture was deep rooted and issues of early marriages were the order of the day.
“By the time I reached Form One in secondary school, many peers in my village were already out of school. Society expected me to follow suit, but I pressed on with my studies,” she says.
Apart from that, being supported through school by farming parents was also a challenge as they could not get much from farming to support all their schooling requirements.
“Our family was big and it was not easy to support us all. My father had to work extra hard to make ends meet. We spent most of our time on the farm assisting our parents with garden work,” she explains.
Looking to her future, the 35-year-old says she believes professional growth and development to be very crucial in one’s career path.
“As a teacher, I still see it necessary to acquire new concepts, skills, methodologies and theories in the teaching profession that are crucial for the learners’ academic success. I would, therefore, like to pursue my studies in the field of education for masters and Doctor of Philosophy programmes in the near future,” she says.
Esnart, the second born in a family of eight children, also plans to engage in motivational talks and mentorship programmes as a way of encouraging boys and girls to realise their potential and work hard in their studies.
Furthermore, she says she will start a merit-based reward programme where outstanding students from her village will be identified and given some rewards to encourage them to work harder at school as well as stay in school and reduce school dropouts.
She encourages younger girls across the country to always have clearly defined goals in life and strive to achieve them.
Esnart adds that girls need to be focused and never give up on their dreams.
“There are many girls out there who are facing challenges. The advice I can give them is that they should take those challenges as an opportunity to achieve what they want in life. Hardships are part of life; they are not barriers to one’s dreams,” she says.
Married to Wenceslaus Khasu, a teacher at Sadzi CDSS, she is a mother of two children, Kelvin and Madalo.