MALAWI’S DEVELOPMENT EXPERT SOARING ABOVE FAILURE
Experiences in our childhood often shape our belief systems and the adults we become. Since most of our childhood is spent in schools, around friends and teachers; the quality of and experiences in these environments play a big role in how we view ourselves, the world and our capabilities. Most of us know of people who have had to repeat a stage of their education for various reasons, yet we hardly speak of the psychological/mental effects of doing so. For some people, this traumatic experience leaves them feeling like failures and they lose interest in schooling/education altogether.
Chimwemwe Manyozo is an international development expert with an educational background of a Masters in Development Studies and Bachelor’s in Arts Media for Development. He was awarded the 2015/2016 Chevening Scholarship to study MA in Development Studies at the University of Sussex and has received an admission to the University of East Anglia to pursue a PHD.
“Education has given me the tools, knowledge and exposure that allows me to continue learning and growing,” Chimwemwe says. Education in Malawi and the UK is very different, he observes, one of the main things being the level of support students receive. The high level of support from lecturers and access to a wide range of learning materials and methods allows students getting an education in the UK to focus more on the course/subject at hand. An entirely different case from getting an education in Malawi where support is very limited in terms of the resources required to ensure students have access and support to material and lecturers who can help shape their career paths.
Chimwemwe is the co-founder and CEO of Maphunziro265, an organization established to improve access to quality education for young people. He says it was born from encountering many cases of students who were about to drop-out of school and young professionals lacking mentorship and skills development. Along with Tendai Munemo Katsonga, they decided to establish an initiative that would provide sponsorship, mentorship and skills development to ensure young people in Malawi live up to their fullest potential.
Contrary to the popular opinion that young people lack the experience or needed focus to contribute to the development of Malawi, most young people in Malawi want to collaborate in building and creating a prosperous Malawi. There are many brilliant youth-led initiatives that are aimed at the development of Malawi; conversations with young people nowadays reveals their hunger for opportunities that will both challenge and elevate them to becoming brands and individuals that make a difference in Malawi and globally.
From the outset, his journey in attaining education might look easy and straight forward, but the reality of it is quite different.
Having to repeat Form One in secondary school due to failing it the first time, sobered him up to the reality that we all come from different places and homes; our parents and families are not the same. He noted the differences between his family and that of others, his parents were not rich as some of his friends, who had both parents and he only had his mother at the time. He got to thinking about making changes to his school performance to make his mother happy, this built a drive in him to do better and to not continue in the path of failure. He made it his personal challenge to do outperform his siblings in terms of academic results, which drove him to work hard and give his best. Even though he didn’t get the grades he wanted, it was an improvement from his previous performance.
He values constant improvement, where you improve in increments rather than drastically. He discovered that after applying himself, a lot of things took a different direction. After scoring 18 points during his MSCE, he applied to the University of Malawi and was not admitted through the “normal” entry program. In 2011, he began his scholarship applications for a Masters program and only managed to get the scholarship and admission in 2015. Currently, he is planning on pursuing his PhD and has received many admission rejections from his dream universities and scholarship application rejections. He sees it all as part of the process and continues to make applications for scholarships and other opportunities.
He recalls his mother being an open-minded person. “She respected the decisions you made including those she did not agree with. She also provided the necessary support to ensure you realize your dreams,” Chimwemwe says. That home environment along with his personal experiences in his Christian faith, with God, teachers and friends in the school he attended, have made a big impact in shaping him to who he is today: an individual driven to empower others.
A firm believer of every individual having a calling; he believes his purpose in life is to inspire people into action through whatever means necessary. The calling of his siblings to contribute to the world through music and his own are proof that every person has something to offer. The only difference being the results of those individual purposes/callings.
He observes how his dreams have evolved overtime. Aspirations of being a truck driver in primary school soon became aspirations to be a pilot in secondary school. After his MSCE exams, he had his eyes set on becoming an economist but destiny had other plans that led him down the path of development and youth empowerment.
Rejection is something Chimwemwe is all too familiar with on many fronts. At times he is faced with the temptation to quit, but after giving it serious thought, he always concludes that the only way he is guaranteed to never realize his dreams is when he quits. His mantra to himself is to never give up. And in the moments when the pressure becomes overwhelming, he always takes a break; from applications and other activities, to recollect himself and get back into the swing of things with new found energy.