Nyokase Florence Chibambo-Madise is a 73 year-old mother and grandmother who worked with MBC for 30 years. She was the second woman to be employed at the station during its infant years. She was the first woman from this country to be trained by the BBC radio. She talks to ALBERT SHARRA on what it meant to be a working mother on morning and night shifts â€“ but managed to raise successful children; what it was to work during Kamuzu Bandaâ€™s era; and she shares her life experiences.
Â Who is Nyokase Madise?
I was born on 30th April 1939 in Ekwendeni, Mzimba. I come from Chibambo Village, T/A Mtwalo in Mzimba. I am a widow who had seven children but lost two. I am a retired broadcaster after working with MBC from 1964 to 1994. I grew up at Livingstonia Mission in Rumphi but I ended up in Blantyre.
How did you end up in Blantyre?
My father was a primary school teacher at Livingstonia Mission. I left for Blantyre after doing well in my year 6 examinations. I was selected to Blantyre Secondary School (BSS) in 1953. I was one of the three girls to make it to BSS.
However, this was the hardest time of my life. I did not find it easy moving from the village to town. Most things were new to me. I terribly missed my parents because life in the village was full of support and interactions where as at BSS we were treated as adults. It was a big challenge for me. But as time went on I got used to urban environment.
After my Junior Certificate, in 1955, I joined Blantyre Teachers Training College but I did not finish my studies because I realised that I did not want to become a teacher. I got married in 1959 before joining MBC in 1964.
How did you find yourself at MBC?
It was Godâ€™s plan. When I was young I never dreamt of being in the media. I thought I would be a teacher or a nurse. I changed my mind after seeing a patient at a hospital with a big and dirty wound. I was totally put off. I wanted to become a teacher probably because my late father was one.
But God knew my destiny and He exposed me to the right people at the right time. It was in 1963 that I was interacting with an influential person from MBC. I never knew the person was impressed with the way I was presenting myself. He asked me to apply for a job at the newly formed radio station. After passing the interviews I was part of the team that was being trained by a BBC employee Tim Neal. To my understanding, my selection was based on performance and passion to learn. My duties were just general: presenter, reporter or producer because we were a small team. But it was too involving. There were times one could service double shifts or constantly travel to cover outside broadcasts.
How did you balance work and motherhood?
It was tough because I was sometimes away from home. Usually in the beginning I worked on shifts. The shifts could start as early as 4am and finished as late as midnight. But I was doing my best to be available for my family. I could not provide all the home service and I had to employ a nanny to assist me. With the love of my husband and the grace of God, my children have grown up responsible as if I was always with them. The biggest challenge is developments at home negatively affect a mother. For instance, it is difficult to concentrate when your child is sick. This can prevent women from being successful.
The good side of being a working mother is that you also serve as a role model to your kids. That is what actually happened to my family. I climbed the career ladder at MBC and their father was an accountant. Our children became ambitious. They wanted to be like both of us. We managed to raise three boys who are a judge, a lawyer, and an accountant. The two girls are a professor at a university outside Malawi and a human resources manager.
You worked during the time of the Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda era? How was it like?
It was quite tricky but enjoyable. I started the job when there were few media practitioners and it was something exceptional to be on air. However, the taste of it changed a few years later particularly during and after the Cabinet Crisis. There were a lot of political suspicions and this affected our work. It was like there were always eyes watching you from somewhere. You had to be cautious when on air otherwise what you said could cost your job and even put you behind bars. The first woman at MBC Chenchwa Bwanausi Khonje left because of the Cabinet Crisis. We now became extra careful. Nevertheless, it was the greatest time of my life.
After 30 years in media, are you satisfied with your life journey?
Oh yes! I am totally satisfied. I joined media when I was only 25 and the 30 years exposed me to the world and took me to various countries across the globe. When I was leaving MBC it felt like the end of my active life. On the contrary, I am always up and down doing various activities both for my home and community. Right after retirement, I served a number of radio stations on part time basis. I went back to MBC for a year and later on to Transworld Radio. I am contemplating to join a radio station that will be run by the Livingstonia Synod in Mzimba.
Before retiring at MBC you went to BBC in London. Tell us about that?
I can comfortably say that I am the first Malawian female radio personality to be trained by the BBC in London. Previously, that is before me, a number of media practioners were trained there but they were all males. I cherish this moment so much apart from that I am the second female to work at MBC. I was trained in studio work.
Do you have any specific memorable moments?
There are many. But I treasure the moment I met the late president Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda at Africa House in London when I went for the training. He said to me; â€œI have heard about you and your hard working spirit, keep it up and learn a lot from these British people.â€ I was so happy to be recognised by the president.
The times when I was asked to cover state banquets at the State house. All presidential functions were then handled by senior people. This planted courage and confidence in me and that is what has helped me to grow in my career.
Another biggest day of my life in the media is when I covered a State Banquet when Queen Elizabeth visited Malawi.
I have travelled across the globe and I have been awarded various certificates during the in Lesotho, Swaziland and Germany. My workmates Mjura Mkandawire and Joyce Ngâ€™oma encouraged me a lot.
It is Motherâ€™s Day tomorrow, what do you think about this day?
I am so happy that we have this day to honour our mothers.This is a great day for all mothers and as children we need to show our love and appreciation to our mothers for the love they have for us to be on earth today.
It is again my greatest motherâ€™s day because my mum is living and I will be with her at my home in Likuni, Lilongwe. I have already planned a present for her. I will organise a small party that will also attract other old women in the community.
I know my children have also something for me so it will be like a double for our family which is rare in life.