Written by Obed Nkhata
Imagine you are in your early 20s and your first teaching post sends you to some rural area. At that age, how many of us would be excited about the prospects of living in a hard to reach location that probably doesn’t have access to electricity, potable water, and is removed from the hustle and bustle of city life? With limited resources, how many of us can thrive under the challenge of shaping the futures of hundreds of young children? This is the story of Temwani Chilenga, a standard 3 teacher at Chambu Primary School located in the western part of Lilongwe district.
Raised in Blantyre in a family of 4, Temwani did her primary school at Kachanga Primary School, before attending Our Lady of Wisdom for secondary school. After secondary school, Temwani was at Malawi Institute of Education. It was while there that she got a calling to go into the teaching profession. Temwani made the decision to train as a primary school teacher at DAPP Dowa Teachers Training College. Upon her graduation, she was posted to Chambu Primary School where she has been teaching since 2018.
At Chambu, Temwani quickly realized that the training she received in college didn’t fully prepare her for all the challenges she would face in her profession, especially in rural settings. Schools in rural areas face funding challenges that are forcing communities that surround them to come up with innovative ways of filling the gap. The community surrounding Chambu Primary School agreed that each student must pay K1, 500 school development fee and K 300 exam fee. Unfortunately, some parents fail to pay these fees. The pain of seeing some of her students fail to attend school due to the fees forced Temwani to use part of the little pay she was getting to pay exam fees for a number of her students.
“I wanted to help them all, but the K 13,000 I was receiving monthly could only go so far,” narrated Temwani. Heartbroken, she helpless watched as some, especially teenage girls, quit school and entered into early marriages, which will only prolong the cycle of poverty in the local community.
The other challenge that Temwani initially had difficulty dealing with was handling large classes. Her standard 3 class has 270 students. This is more than 4 times the 2018 average students to teacher ratio in the country, which was estimated at around 60. Searching to ideas, Temwani decided to join a social media page where teachers from across the world shared ideas. She posted a picture of her large class to solicit suggestions of how to effectively instruct for such a large class.
“My fellow teachers on that page couldn’t believe the size of my class! Apart from helping with ideas, the group came together to support me with school supplies. Later on, it became cheaper for the group to simply send me money that I have used not only to buy class material, but also to buy clothes and other need of for some of the impoverished students.”
Temwani developed strong bonds with some of the teachers on that social media platform to the extent that in April of 2019, some people on the group invited to visit the U.S.A. Her visit lasted two months and it took her to 6 different states. On her return, Temwani brought with her children’s clothes, money, and other goodies. She used the money she brought to provide safe drinking water to the villages surrounding the school. “The people I met in the U.S.A. sent more money that I have used to build homes for orphans and single mothers. Unfortunately, the advent of covid-19 has put a strain on their finances such that I am not getting as much support at the moment. But that’s understandable,” said Temwani. “There has also been a number of Malawians that have helped. Right now, the work to build more homes is in progress.”
The challenges that the covid-19 pandemic has brought haven’t slowed Temwani down. Supported by her two sisters and two of her colleagues, Temwani has been organizing regular lessons for about 300 students. “We teach from 8 AM to 12 PM. We teach all classes, from standard 1 to standard 8. Everything we do it for free.”
One can’t help but be amazed by the commitment and effort that Temwani has put in her profession. In two years, she has done what many youths can only see in their dreams. These are stories worth sharing and highlighting at the national level to inspire others to find their own path to making a difference in their own communities. Sure, not all of us can do what Temwani has done. But we sure can lend a hand, either through volunteering or providing financial assistant to those who are genuinely trying to make a difference. This echoes the parting word of advice that Temwani has. “Right now all I want to ask from people is to help others. There are so many people that are in need. No help is too small. We can’t help everyone, but we can help someone.”
The editor’s note:
Temwani’s story may not be news to many. However, her work and passion can’t be ignored. She’s an angel that needs extra wings to soar even higher.
There are many people individuals who have stepped in helping out but more could be done and Covid-19 has made things tough in Temwani’s work in as far as monetary donations are concerned.
As Akometsi, we would like to help make Temwani’s story and work even sweeter by helping in mobilizing resources to boost Temwani’s efforts in transforming her community.
You could also be part of this and reach out to Temwani. You can get in touch with Temwani Chilenga directly through her Facebook page and also her email provided below.
Join Akometsi in raising MK200, 000 which will be handed over to Temwani at the end of this month of August. To kick start, we have kept MK50, 000 aside, from our pockets.
To join this, please send an email to; email@example.com or send a WhatsApp text on +265 888 391 689. Awa ndi Machitidwe a Akometsi
Facebook: Temwani Chilenga