He is a reserved person. A first meeting with him would prompt one to think that this quietness is influenced by his physical condition. He was born with albinism and as is often the case, people living with such disabilities often sidelined themselves.
But this is not the case with Chifuniro Kondowe, a person with albinism who is giving hope to people surrounding him.
At 27, Kondowe is not a mere village wanderer but somebody who commands huge respect and admiration among people around Traditional Authority Kanyenda in Nkhotakota District.
A journey of meeting Kondowe will take you to Nkholozi Village, in Nkhotakota West where he resides with his wife and two young children.
Dotted around his house are 20 well-built but grass-thatched rooms. The rooms may not be described as eye-catching let alone in the category of modern infrastructure but their occupants, some boys and girls learning at Walemera Community Day Secondary School are contented and optimistic that the rooms are the only path to a better life in future.
The students use the facilities for self-boarding. In the eyes of some, the rooms are as ordinary as any village buildings but in them, the self borders’ burden of travelling long distances to school is lessened.
At the mention of self-boarding, many parents or even organizations would not be comfortable with the subject as self-boarding scheme is commonly blamed for ruining the future of promising students, but a visit to Kondowe’s compound, would certainly change the mindset.
Owning rooms rented by students on self-boarding is not something unique but Kondowe is not a mere landlord with appetite for money. His cause is to help mould a better Malawi. It is for this reason that he has turned into a hero.
“When I arrived here two years ago, I found students walking from far places to access education here. Others could find themselves houses for rent, but houses as well were not easy to find and students who could not withstand the situation ended up dropping out of school,” said Kondowe.
Students on self-boarding lack consistent parental guidance and monitoring, a situation that often triggers their vulnerability to immorality and lose focus in education. This fact compelled Kondowe to do something
Consequently, he decided to build the rooms which he rents to 49 students at K1,000 per month.
With government not approving self-boarding facilities, Kondowe seemed to have done his home work well by capitalising on the weaknesses of fellow landlords for self borders, so that his, can stand out as a shining example.
Kondowe’s compound consist of two blocks of ten rooms each with cemented floors where male students are separated from their female counterparts thereby reducing chances of them engaging in sexual activities.
“Despite the students sharing resources, they are not allowed to go beyond that as strict supervision is provided. We appointed prefects who make sure that fellow students should not misbehave. We have tight security which is difficult to beat and that is why we are able to avoid cases of pregnancies and binge drinking,” said Kondowe.
At Kondowe’s compound, life is beyond landlord-tenant relationship which is often a thorn in the flesh to tenants mostly during month ends. While other landlords pester their tenants over rentals, Kondowe shows humility, leniency and consideration.
As observed by a Form Four student Majorie Kavala, Kondowe cannot be described as someone who is money-oriented but a special blessing to the students.
“He brought boarding school life to a self-boarding. It is a mandate that every day we wake up at 4am to study and Mr. Kondowe himself wakes us up. He inspects the rooms to make sure everybody is awake and studying,” Kavala said adding that Kondowe does not entertain absenteeism from school.
“When one fails to go to school for no valid reasons, an appropriate punishment like sweeping the whole compound, is given to the person. And those who engage in bad behaviour are chased from the place,” she said.
Kondowe, a qualified primary school teacher who dumped the teaching profession, is always preoccupied with his small businesses. He runs a grocery shop, and besides, he also trains some youth in electrical installation but he is always eager to see to it that his tenants do well in class and science subjects in particular. As such, every evening he sacrifices his time to teach them Mathematics and Physical Science.
With all the rooms electrified, the students do have unlimited time for study as failure to have time for book is a choice.
Hezekiah Bapu, another Form Four student staying at the place believes their concentration on education at Kondowe’s compound exceeds that of a conventional boarding school.
“We are now used to this life and everybody is happy. Every morning we wake up to study and in the afternoon Mr. Kondowe engages us for part time classes at no cost and this has improved our performance in class,” said Bapu.
He added that Kondowe is not only concentrating on education but also shaping the students’ spiritual lives.
“Before we sleep we gather to pray and share the word of God and on Sundays he invites pastors to pray with us. Apart from prayers, we are also provided with entertainment as we watch movies on his television set during weekends,” he said.
For Bapu, the ‘good Samaritan’ spirit in Kondowe is for all to see, more so to students like him.
“We know that he is more passionate with our education because the amount we pay him per month cannot match with what we are benefiting from him,” said Bapu.
Kondowe’s zeal to have meaningful boarding facilities, saw him constructing four bathrooms and four toilets which the students use.
Despite water challenges at the place due to lack of piped water system in the area, the students said, Kondowe is able to maintain sanitation at the place.
Kondowe, also an electrician with grade II in electrical installation, said he wants to generate more money to make the conditions at the place even better and also to increase number of the rooms to accommodate more students.
“I want to build a fence around the compound and additional rooms to meet the increasing demand,” he said.
Kondowe said as a teacher by training, he knows the importance of education and challenges students especially in rural areas face to access education hence his use of readily available resources.
Frank Phiri, a head teacher at Walemera Community Day Secondary School said Kondowe is not only helping with accommodation to the students but also making teaching simple.
“The most interesting thing is that students doing self-boarding at Kondowe are performing well in class compared to their colleagues who come from homes. Lack of boarding facilities has been a major problem to the students but the coming of Kondowe is a big relief,” said Phiri.
He also commended Kondowe for enforcing discipline among the students at the compound
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