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Spilling the beans of struggle for education

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One student takes up the errand of going around with a plastic bag in which he has less than five kilogrammes of beans for sale, the other marks it in his life story that he at some point has had to pick up a job as an underpaid security guard – all for the purpose of finding money to support their education.

This is the extent of the challenges some young people in Malawi face to attain tertiary education.

It is a dream of almost every child to get tertiary education, but in Malawi that dream turns into a nightmare when you come from less privileged families.

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This is the sad story of Patrick Thalika and Peter Sithole.

Thalika, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and technology at The Polytechnic, is one of the students finding it difficult to raise tuition fees.

Thalika sells beans to make ends meet.

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“Tuition fees is K275 000 and I got a loan from government of K165, 000, therefore I struggle to get the balance,” he said.

According to Thalika, his dream is to become a graduate, but the only thing that stands between him and his vision is poverty.

“People have been asking for help, but I cannot just sit waiting for people to help me, that is why I decided to start this business. I use the proceeds from selling beans to pay rentals and to commute from Ndirande to school,” he said.

Thalika said he also struggles to write assignments a s h e does not have a laptop.

“Some students of goodwill borrow me [their laptops] when they finish their assignments,” he says.

Thalika is the first born in his family.

He said his mother who sells vegetables cannot manage to help him financially.

Apart from Thalika, Sithole also has a different story to tell on his vision to access a higher learning institution.

Sithole is another student who is failing to pursue his dream of becoming a graduate due to lack of funds.

A former child in the streets of Blantyre, Sithole risks going back to his childhood life as a street kid if no one supports him to realize his dream of studying for his tertiary education.

The 22-year-old managed to pass the MSCE examination with 18 points from the streets but could not make it to the University of Malawi in the just released 2016 intake.

Meanwhile he has been assured of a place at the Malawi College of accountancy, Blantyre campus to pursue Bachelor of applied accounts auditing and information systems but he fears of a possible withdraw due to lack of support.

“I really want to change my life by going ahead with education that is why all along I have been struggling to raise money buying books to read to an extent that I passed Junior Certificate and MSCE, as of now only one person has pledged to be paying for me a semester each year because that is what she can afford, all I need is support for the other semester because for me to be admitted, college officials want full evidence that I will be able to pay for my school fees,” said Sithole.

Sithole, went into begging in the streets when he was 8, after he lost both parents in 2002.

“But I still had hope that I can do better so I started work as a security guard at one of the security companies when I was 15, I wanted to raise money to buy books for my studies while working at night, the salary then was K3000, however it was not enough and I was spending day times doing piece works.” said Sithole.

Since he has nothing else to do, Sithole is being kept by some people of good will who are providing him with food and shelter as he is waiting for the day people of good will extend their hands for his tertiary education.

Sithole, went into begging in the streets when he was 8 years old, after he lost both parents in 2002.

The Executive Director for the Higher Education students’ Loans and Grants Board Chris Christopher Chisoni said the applicants do not get 100 percent of the tuition fees.

“This is a cost sharing mechanism, no one gets 100 percent. We ask the applicants to provide enough information, from there we decide the percentage to offer them,” Chisoni said.

Chisoni said there is information that some students are failing to top up, that is why the president directed that his institution should receive additional funding.

“Those that are failing to top up will get assisted, we are just waiting for the next meeting of parliament to approve the extra funding,” he said.

Spokesperson in the Ministry of Education Manfred Ndovie said government will ensure that students do not drop out of school due to lack of financial resources.

“As you are aware, recently the president directed the treasury to release additional resources to help needy students, this shows government’s commitment to ensure that people are not denied their right to education,” he says.

According to Ndovie, government will also increase the resources to the Higher Education students’ Loans and Grants Board so that needy students have access to the loans.

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