When Rose Chaponda started operating a nursery school from a garage in Chirimba, Blantyre, she did not envision Rose Garden Private Schools. Today the school provides both primary and secondary education. It is also offering scholarships to both its students and graduates who are in various government secondary schools in the spirit of giving back to the community. PAIDA MPASO talks to Chaponda.
What is your background?
In our family, we were nine children, six girls and three boys. I am from Ntcheu. But due to the nature of my father’s job, we used to travel a lot and ended up in Lumbadzi around the 1960s and that was where I started my education journey. I started my primary school at Nkukula Local Education Authority (LEA), and then went to Likuni Primary School. I was then selected to Providence Secondary School. I did my teaching course at Lilongwe Teachers College. I have taught at Livimbo and Phokera primary schools in Lilongwe. Then I got married and moved to Blantyre where I taught at Chitawira Primary School, before moving to Catholic Institute (CI) and Dharap or Namiwawa Primary School. I further went to Nyambadwe MCDE, Chirimba MCDE. I retired while teaching at Namiwawa MCDE.
At what point in your life did you meet your husband?
I met him 36 years ago and we have four children. Two are in England, one stays in Lilongwe while the other one helps my husband to run our hotel, Dika.
What do you remember most about childhood?
My father was a clerk and he would tell us to work hard so that we should be like him. I looked at my father as my idol and that was all I needed.
What challenges did you encounter while growing up?
Growing up in the village can really be tough [Lumbadzi was not developed yet]. There were times I would question the importance of education. I mean at the rate girls were dropping out, it was very bad. And there were a lot of men who wanted to derail us, to marry them. The school we were attending was very far, but my father encouraged us to continue pushing for success. When he realised that the pressure was too much, he put us in boarding schools and this helped us a lot.
Take me through the beginning of Rose Garden Schools?
Rose Garden started in 1995 as a reception class. Back then, the classes were being held in a garage. I was the only teacher responsible for nine children. I had just retired as a teacher after teaching for over 20 years. I thought of doing something instead of just being idle. I also thought it was one way of giving back to the community. Soon I employed a few teachers as I had added two more classes. And so, Rose Garden Private Schools was born. Having taught primary and secondary schools, I practically had an idea of what it takes to run a school. But my goal was to make myself useful to the community.
What challenges did you encounter in the beginning?
The biggest challenge I faced was that of gaining trust from parents of the children I was taking care of. I feel parents had problems understanding what good can come out of someone operating a school from a garage. I proved how determined I was. Eventually, the parents looked at how serious I was and that is how I have survived. Then there was the issue of finances. I took loans from a bank and that was how I made it work.
Another challenge was that I operated from a rented place. When the school grew, the owner of the place wanted their place back. I thought my school was going to collapse because some parents would lose trust in a school that had no permanent place to operate from. However, we bought a place in the same township and built a school.
Was this how you visualised your school?
Honestly, when I was starting the nursery, I had no idea that it would grow into a primary and secondary school. I am even thinking of adding a technical college. I am grateful for what God has done in my life.
What about the scholarships being offered at the school?
Rose Garden realises the importance of education. We realise that not everybody can afford to go to school. There are some who are intelligent, but cannot afford an education. We introduced scholarships to help these less privileged students. Then we also offer scholarships to the intelligent and hard workers as a reward for their hardwork. We currently have seven students on this type of scholarship. In addition, we are supporting some students in government secondary schools with their financial needs.
How has your husband helped you run this school?
My husband has been there for me since its inception. He has taught me never to give up in life. In addition, he is the one who helped build the buildings on this campus.
How many teachers and students do you have?
We have 45 teachers and over 1200 school children.
What do you want your children to learn from you?
Hardwork is very important. Especially in business, there are times one just has nowhere to turn to. But with brilliant ideas and hardwork, one can never go wrong. I want my children to understand the dynamic of life and its challenges.
What has been your motto?
Fear of God, hardwork and respect the people who are working with you.
What major sacrifice have you made?
I have put my family life on hold a lot because of my dedication to this school. I regret that I have not spent so much time with them. I know that there were times they longed to be with me and I was not there for them.
What makes you happy as a teacher?
To see children learn and grow up in knowledge makes me feel happy. As a teacher, I know how tough it is to teach a child and when I see that a child is able to write a simple letter and understand what that letter is, it makes me complete.
What type of attire do you like?
I like wearing a suit during work days, but on Sundays I like wearing national wear.
How do you want to be remembered?
I want to be remembered as a mother who tried her best to make things better for her family and as a director who loved her job and the people helping her. Love is very important and I try to apply this across the board knowing that. I am nothing without them. I would like to encourage women to never let go of their dreams. As women we juggle a lot, we take care of our families and other issues; all that is needed is determination. When you are at the top of your career ladder, continue to respect members of your family, especially your husband.