The death of Martha Sikelo’s father in 2012 dampened a future she had resolutely pursued. She was in Form One at the time and could not imagine how she would progress with her education in the absence of the support that she regularly needed.
“It was difficult for me to find school fees. I was doing quite well in class, but without school fees, that did not matter,” Martha recalls with outlying longing.
Fortunately for her, United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) came in to support her secondary education and revived a dream that had crushed with her father’s death.
She says the Unicef support obliged her to put in extra effort in her studies and the diligence paid off in the long run. She was selected to study for a Bachelor of Mathematical Sciences Education degree at the University of Malawi’s The Polytechnic.
“The good news turned bitter once again. I could not find money for school fees. The support from Unicef ended when I was in Form Four and my mother could not afford to support me,” Martha, from Chikwawa District, explains.
She was among hundreds of university students at risk of failing to pursue their studies due to financial constraints.
“But as luck would have it, I was also one of those put on education sponsorship provided by FDH Bank. I am now in year two and the support will take me through to my final year,” the first-born child in a family of three states.
The sponsorship is covering fees, accommodation, food and several other things that she needs in her studies.
FDH Bank Public Relations Officer, Lorraine Lusinje, says the firm has a robust corporate social responsibility (CSR) portfolio targeted at supporting socio-economic growth focusing on enabling sectors of health and education.
The scholarship sponsorships at the University of Malawi and Malawi University of Science and Technology that cater for 26 students form part of the bank’s CSR.
The bank also refurbished and continues to provide support to Queen Elizabeth Hospital Cancer High Dependency Unit (HDU), re-equipped and refurbished Makwasa Paediatric HDU and built a house for Marietta Samuel whose hands were chopped off by her husband in Dowa, among others.
“We are also sponsoring the Netball Association of Malawi and the netball team as well as the Football Association of Malawi and the national football team,” Lusinje says.
Regarding education scholarships, the bank is supporting 10 students at the Polytechnic, six students at Chancellor College, 10 students at Must and nine students under Hope for the Blind where three are in college while six are in secondary school.
“Our strategic focus areas are education, health and youth sports development, understanding that education and health are integral to a country’s development,” she says, adding that the bank has a total investment of over K200 million for the students.
And the students are confident of pushing through to the end of their undergraduate training as what they require in their pursuits is readily available.
Dean of Students at The Polytechnic, Luciano Ndalama, hails the support that FDH is providing to students at the institution, saying it has rejuvenated hopes of students whose futures were uncertain.
“As it stands, they are providing the biggest support to students in terms of fees and upkeep resources. It is clear that the students are grateful because even their performance is very impressive,” Ndalama says.
As Dean of Students, he bears a big responsibility of ensuring their welfare is up to the required standards.
It is not always possible.
“We wish more institutions came forward to support students who are in need. These are future employees and they will contribute to the development of the institutions themselves and the nation,” Ndalama says.
And Martha is confident that beyond her college education quest, she will emerge more equipped to face the world and wipe off the holdups that characterised her life after her father’s death.