Nancy Bilima-Sakala, 39, a Ngoni from Mbulawa Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Khosolo-Jere in Mzimba broke all the barriers to become an orthopedic surgeon after years of working as a guard.
After completing her primary school studies in 1993, she was selected to Likuni Girls Secondary School where unfortunately she did not do too well in her MSCE having scored 7’s in English and Mathematics.
“My father wanted me to repeat, but I refused. By then, I was so stubborn and could not listen to him. I felt old enough to take care of myself and get married, which I eventually did against his wishes,” she says.
Life was normal for her and her three siblings, until it took a sour turn after July of 2000 when their father passed away.
The reality of life started to bite hard, with all kinds of pains and hardship in the family and nobody to hold their hand.
“As time went by, life became so tough for my mother and my siblings as I could not provide for them. It was so bad that the hunger that struck Malawi in 2001 really tormented us to the extent that my younger sister who is our last born became malnourished,” Nancy recalls.
She then landed a job as a premier guard at G4S (then Securicor) in 2002 and she worked with the company for two and a half years.
“I was using the little I was getting from there to take care of my mother and pay my brothers’ school fees because they were in secondary school. We toiled so much,” she explains.
In 2004, she saw an advert for studies at the Malawi College of Health Sciences (MCHS) in the news paper.
Nancy applied and was called for interview.
However, that was the beginning of conflicts in her marriage because her husband could not allow her to go for further studies.
“I secretly went to write the entrance examinations at the College of Health Sciences; unfortunately we were there until late and when I got home that night, my husband beat me up, accusing me of infidelity,” she recalls.
Luckily, she was shortlisted to attend oral interviews and this time around she thought of informing her husband beforehand to avert another beating in case she came late again.
As fate would have it, he allegedly beat her again, this time aiming for her face, so that she could not go for the interview.
But that did not stop her; with her swollen face she still attended the interview as she pondered that getting that education would be the only solution to her problems and earning a brighter future.
“At the interview, everybody wondered what happened and why I did not just miss the interview. I understood their position, but I had no choice. When I was asked by the panel to introduce myself, I did without leaving anything out, including my marital life and why my face was looking like that. I got home later that day to another beating because I defied the order and attended the interview,” claims the mother of two.
Once the results were out, she was among the candidates selected to pursue a certificate in clinical medicine at the MCHS Lilongwe Campus.
That was the beginning of another battle in her marriage as she was then faced with having to choose between school and marriage.
Nancy had no choice, but to do the two together. She resigned from G4S and joined MCHS to be trained as a medical assistant.
“I sent my son and my younger sister to the village and I packed up to go to school. I would come home every Friday evening and leave again for school every Monday morning so that I could take care of my husband.
“I did that for a few months and one weekend when I came home, I found a woman in the house. Fortunately, he wasn’t around, and I just went in the house to collect my things and left,” says the former guard.
Upon completion of her studies, she was posted to Nathenje Health Centre as a medical assistant in 2006 where she worked for four years before she was transferred to Chitedze Health Centre in Lilongwe.
After working for a year, she was selected to pursue a Diploma in Orthopaedics at MCHS Blantyre Campus in 2011.
She completed her studies in 2013 and was posted to Monkey-Bay Community Hospital in Mangochi to work as an orthopaedic technician.
In 2014, Nancy decided to re-sit her Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) and reduce her points and she scored 19 points.
She went on to apply for another upgrade at the College of Medicine.
She was selected in 2015 to pursue her Bachelor of Science in Trauma and Orthopaedics, which she completed in 2017.
After graduating from the College of Medicine, she was transferred to Kamuzu Central Hospital where she now works as associate trauma and orthopaedic surgeon.
Advising younger girls, Nancy says: “Have your own goals in life, instead of just complaining about how unfair life is. Submit yourself to God Almighty; He is faithful to help you. Be strong and determined.”
Nancy became Mrs. Sakala after her divorce.