If you ask Thandikile why she left uptown Bambino Private Schools in Malawiâ€™s capital, Lilongwe, and ended up at Chioko Community Day Secondary School, the first likely response you get from the 20-year-old are sobs.
When you ask her why she got pregnant at age 17, tears run down her cheeks. When you ask her why she now lives in a ramshackle in Lilongweâ€™s Kawale 2, down from the glory of Area 44 neighbouring the New State House, the Deputy Speaker of Malawi Youth Parliament covers her face with her palms, fighting back more tears.
Hers is a story of how useless a will can sometimes be. Itâ€™s a story that has gone through all the legal and social processes, with everyone doing and saying the right thing; yet at the end, there is a soul that claims has got a raw deal in life.
Thandikile is devastated to discover later in her life that, in fact, a will is not a law in itself such that people trusted to administer it can decide against it even without your childrenâ€™s knowledge.
â€œIf I met the President today [starts sobbing]â€¦ I would [sobs continue] ask her that Parliament should come up with a law that would truly protect children at the death of their parents,â€ Thandikile said in a recent interview.
The only daughter to Boniface and Jean Jumbe, Thandikile was born with a silver spoon in her mouth.
Before their death in 2001 and 2002, respectively, Thandiâ€™s parents knew they both came from poor backgrounds such that no one had economic prowess to take care of their daughter in their absence.
â€œBefore he died, he built a good house in Area 44 and had a filling station in town.â€ Thatâ€™s how Thandi summarises her fatherâ€™s wealth.
The businessperson also ran one of the most successful car hire firms in the capital, among other enterprises.
Before death, he must have heard from advocates such as Seodi White of Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA) on how important it is for parents to leave behind a will.
Thandikileâ€™s father did just that and entrusted his property with a relative and a friend (names withheld).
The instructions in the will, sworn on November 23 2001, were clear: â€œI give and devise all my personal and real property indicated hereunder to my daughter THANDI absolutely.â€
The property, among others, included the dwelling house on Plot Number 44/103 and Title Number Bwaila 13.9 Lilongwe â€œand the filling station business thereon.â€
Others were vehicles and â€œall the moneyâ€ in a bank account at a Lilongwe bank.
The father further instructed: â€œI direct that my relatives and my wifeâ€™s relatives must not interfere with the execution of this my will.
â€œI direct that my wife…must have custody of my daughter Thandi and be at liberty to stay in our matrimonial house on Plot No. 44.103 aforesaid as long as she does not get married.â€
The wife did not get married; but unfortunately, like her husband, she died.
There trouble started brewing for Thandi, according to her claims.
â€œAlthough I was young, but I could see things [would] be bad,â€ she narrates in the interview.
After her motherâ€™s burial, Thandi was taken to her other aunt, not the one entrusted to execute the will.
The will had clearly instructed that â€œmy trustees and executors and executrix of this my will should continue to run [the filling station] in trust for my daughter Thandi until she attains the age of 21.â€
This, she claims, did not matter with the trustees.
â€œUpon his death, his trustees had to sell the filling station, claiming it was to help me with school. Unfortunately, the businessperson they sold to only paid K1.5 million [about $5 000] and refused to pay the other half until now since he had already changed the title deed,â€ claims Thandi.
By this time, she was now living in Kawale 2 with an aunt who could not afford to maintain her at Bambino.
The businessperson who bought the filling station offered to help and reportedly took Thandi to his house for some time until she decided to go back to Kawale. Things went from bad to worse.
â€œSince then, I have just been staying home since my aunt is jobless and cannot afford my fees,â€ says Thandi.
In the course of struggling for a living, she claims she met a boy whose father does business in Mponela, Dowa. The boy, she says, â€œcould give me whatever I wanted.â€
She got pregnant, claiming she was not aware the boy also impregnated another girl at the same time.
â€œI have his daughter. Unfortunately, he doesnâ€™t support her and he has not even seen her since birth,â€ narrates Thandi
She claims she went to live with the boyâ€™s mother but left quickly â€œbecause his aunt loved the other girl.â€
Back in Kawale, more trouble followed.
But with all this, Thandi did not lose sight of what she wants to be in future. Three years later, she met a well-wisher who paid her fees at Chioko for her to do Form Four and she is now waiting for her examination results.
She says what pains her most is that â€œif my parents were alive, I would have done Form Six at 17, when I got pregnant.â€
â€œI would have finished college by now and probably be able to live my dream of becoming a banker,â€ she says, tears rolling her cheeks.
But all aside, Thandi hopes for a bright future although she has no one to pay for her tuition and other needs if she goes to college.
Her grandparents left some land, close to where she lives. They have rented out the land to vegetable sellers who pay K30 per day.
â€œItâ€™s difficult. We make K300 on a good day, but in most cases, they donâ€™t have enough and we make maybe K100,â€ she says.
This is the money they use for their day-to-day living.
â€œIt is difficult to afford three meals. In most cases, we just have one meal a day,â€ she says.
Fortunately, Thandi was born courageous and forward-looking.
â€œI also thank Mrs. Anne Kachelenga, director of Blessings CBO,â€ she says.
The CBO is not only providing free education to Thandiâ€™s daughter Tapiwa but also uses Thandi as one of the trusted girls.
The CBO has been the main counsellor grooming the girl.
â€œI would have taken my own kids, but I said no, Thandi is the right person, very capable and I will not be ashamed of her,â€ says Kachelenga.
â€œI am now Deputy Speaker of Malawi Youth Parliament through the CBO,â€ says Thandi and at least can afford a smile in the 60 minutes she was interviewed.
Kachelenga, a former teacher and education inspector, attests to struggles Thandi has been through, but thinks even though the girl was careless with an early love, all is not lost.
â€œShe is a strong girl and has a bright future,â€ says Kachelenga.
At some point, the Lilongwe City Council asked Kachelengaâ€™s CBO to propose a name of a girl who could be part of the youth parliament to compete with others, and Thandi was an automatic choice.
She competed and was picked and with her courage and fluent English, she was elected Deputy Speaker.
While she still struggles for a living, she has been battling in court to have the businessperson surrender the filling station and the rest of the plotâ€”as per her fatherâ€™s will.
But in his recent ruling on the matter, Justice Rezine Mzikamanda cleared the businessperson, arguing that Thandi should sue her will trustees and not the buyer.
But her lawyer, Gift Nankhuni, partly argues that even K3 million for a filling station was on the lower side and wanted it raised to K15 million.
â€œShe is so devastated by the ruling. We advised her to appeal, but she does not seem interested anymore,â€ says Nankhuni.