Emmanuel Lemani, 17, set his mind on education once he realised that it is gateway to success. He has been hard working and beaming with enthusiasm to excel in education.
The boy from Chipala Village, Traditional Authority Mphonde in Nkhotakota, was expected to be preparing for Malawi School Certificate of Education exams this year but he is unexpectedly back in Standard 7 after passing Junior Certificate (JC) exams in 2013.
“I passed the exams at Mpondagaga Community Day Secondary School [CDSS]. My mother has been solely shouldering the responsibility of paying for my school fees because my father rejected me before I was born,” Lemani begins narrating his story.
His mother told her she would no longer manage paying school fees for him after completing Form 3. This prompted his aunt to take over the responsibility and she told him to relocate to Kasamba CDSS in Nkhotakota.
“It did not take long before my aunt moved to Blantyre, following her husband. Her promise of footing my school fees also vanished once she moved to Blantyre.
“I was compelled to go back to Mpondagaga where I reported the matter to my mother and my step father. I also reported the matter to head teacher at Mpondagaga CDSS and Nkhotakota District Social Welfare Office but there was no light at the end of the tunnel,” he says.
The boy decided to go to Nkhotakota boma to begin working for a certain man by operating his bicycle taxi [kabaza]. On average, he was making K1,000 per day which he would surrender to his boss.
“The little the boss could give me was used for taking care of my grandmother whom I was staying with at the boma.
“I was her breadwinner and with the little I was getting meant that it was almost impossible for me to save money to accumulate K7000 for my school fees,” says Lemani.
The boy decided to go back to Mpondagaga and resume school but in primary school rather than wasting time.
“I noted that I would eventually drop out of school, a thing I don’t want to do at all cost. I decided to begin Standard 7 at Mpondagaga Primary School to give ample time to my mother to get ready and resume paying for my school fees.
“I noted that beginning in Standard 8 would not be ideal for my mother to get ready. In
addition, I’m waiting for well-wishers to come in and assist,” he says.
Masoja Qoto who is one of the Standard 7 teachers for Lemani at Mpondagaga says he discovered late about the situation of Lemani after some learners informed him about his depressing story.
“He joined us midway in first term but he was on position 1. He is exceedingly interested in education such that when teachers are away, he organises fellow learners and begins quiz.
“Whenever he hears that Standard 5 and 6 learners are to write any assessment, he asks for permission to take part in that assessment. We also have evening studies from 5pm to 7pm and Lemani has never missed even a single evening study,” says the teacher.
Lemani’s mother, Annes Mwanza, says he was managing to pay school fees for Lemani for Form 1 to 3 because she was staying closer to Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve then.
“I was collecting firewood from the wildlife reserve and selling it in fishing beaches to earn a living and pay the school fees. Once we relocated to the current place, I do not have that opportunity because the reserve is very far away,” she says.
Mwanza and Lemani say Lemani’s biological father who stays at Nkhotakota boma is aware of the Lemani’s status because Lemani has been paying visits to him.
“I have been informing him about my status but he only makes promises. He only tells me about good plans he has for me but he does nothing,” says Lemani.
Section 3 (a) ii of the Child Care, Protection and Justice Act stipulates that a parent or guardian should provide proper guidance, care, assistance and maintenance for the child to ensure his or her survival and development, including in particular adequate diet, clothing, shelter and medical attention.
This is in line with section 23 of Malawi Constitution and article 18 of UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The article stipulates that both parents share responsibility for bringing up their children and should always consider what is best for every child.
Mwanza says the head teacher wanted Lemani to begin Standard 8 but Lemani insisted beginning Standard 7. She says they allowed him to begin Standard 7 because that was his interest.
“I think my son has a bright future because he has interest in education and has never repeated any class. I will work hard in rice farming so that I should get enough proceeds to pay school fees for him so that he should not suffer any more,” says Mwanza.
The mother indicates that he wants Lemani to go further with education to eventually assist her in paying school fees for his four younger brothers.
Traditional Authority Mphonde has however said Lemani should not have started Standard 7, saying he should have approached him to give him a letter authenticating his vulnerability to deliver it to District Social Welfare Office.
“It’s news to me and it’s a sad development but I believe he made a wrong decision. If he is selected to go to national secondary school, will he manage paying school fees?
“He should have approached me and I would have brought also the matter to the attention of Member of Parliament for this area. This is just an example of the problems youths are facing in their quest to excel in education,” says the chief.
Nkhotakota District Social Welfare Officer Dereck Mwenda says he will make a follow-up on Lemani’s issue and his office will make sure that Lemani is included among the beneficiaries of bursary scheme by the National Aids Commission.
“If that fails, I will link him to other interested organisations so that the boy should realise his dream,” says Mwenda.
Lemani says he wants to be either a health worker or a teacher after completing his tertiary education.
“I want to be a teacher in order to assist learners how best they can confront challenges they face. Through the hardships I’m going through, I’m aware of the challenges learners face and I will be better-placed to assist them,” says Lemani.
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