From a not-so-good Chirimba Community Day Secondary School in Blantyre, John Chione, 30, made it to the Polytechnic, a constituent college of the University of Malawi (Unima) in 2012, registering as a mechanical engineering student.
Although his poor parents always struggled to raise fees, Chione had hopes for a bright future. He worked hard at Chirimba and scored 18 points in his Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) examinations.
Chione, a third born in a family of seven, said he was hopeful his parents were going to ensure that he remains in college but things didn’t work out.
According to Chione, he saw his world crumble as his parents could not afford to raise a K250 000 annual fee. Towards the end of his first-year, he was denied to sit for the end of the year examinations. Thus, he painfully withdrew from college.
He asked management to reserve him space, which according to him they did for the academic year that ended last July.
A distraught Chione, who even failed to secure government loan accessible to students, still thirsted for education. He tried to look for a decent job but he couldn’t get one.
His hopes were that he would use part of the pay to support his poor family and save the rest for his college fees.
What else could a poor and vulnerable person do? He took up a job as a security guard at Omega Security Company, earning K21 000 per month.
Chione said he worked for almost a year in anticipation of raising some money, but sadly, as the new academic year opens this September 30, his savings are not enough to take him back to school.
To make matters worse, he was savagely attacked by robbers armed with pangas at around 2am last Thursday while on duty at a residential house near Mandala Flats.
“I’m the only promising son in my family. My other brothers are not educated. The last born, a young brother, is disabled. He doesn’t walk and he is dumb. “I’m afraid I may lose my place at the Polytechnic. Regulations allow the college to reserve a place for two academic years only,” he said.
Chione said although he has no means, all he wanted was to go back to school, fearing that the job he got himself into could consequently cost his life.
Unima spokesperson Peter Mitunda confirmed that Chione is their student at the Polytechnic who asked for his place to be reserved.
Mitunda said the Polytechnic management regretted Chione’s attack by the robbers, adding that they visited him in hospital on Thursday and Friday.
Chione said the recent fee hike—from K55 000 for government-sponsored students and K250 000 for self-sponsored students to a minimum of K400 000 across the board—shocked him.
“When my colleagues put up the ‘Fees must fall campaign’, I understood them. There are many of us who cannot afford to pay for photocopying of learning materials. There are most of us who go in class without taking a meal,” he said.
President Peter Mutharika reduced the fees by K50 000, which students said was not enough.
Chione said the robbers (about five of them) targeted his head with the pangas.
“As I tried to shield my head with my arms, the pangas landed on my arms and I sustained serious injuries and was taken to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital by the owner of the house,” he said.