When asked about the profession she would love to pursue, she sat upright, looked utterly confident and gave an answer that is least expected from a 15-year-old girl. Even more pleasantly surprising is that it is a profession that will make her one of the few women in the country to hold it.
She wants to become a post-mortem doctor, a Pathologist.
Her name is Angela.
She is one of the girls that we started sponsoring last year through our Secondary School Scholarship Programme. Angela’s story is a compelling narrative. She is a bright young woman who has always been among the top three star performers in the education zone of the district that she comes from. Her fascination with forensic pathology began when she watched a television interview of the first autopsy doctor in Malawi. The Coroner explained how he helps people understand how someone died.
“The interview changed my life and I saw myself becoming a pathologist,” Angela said. Since then she started preparing herself for the career. However, there is more to what inspired her to follow that medical profession. She explained that she wants to assist the police to clear myths surrounding deaths, especially in the villages. Angela has, on multiple occasions in her community, witnessed violent attacks on people who were blamed for murdering someone through witchcraft, when a sudden death occurred. In one incident, a particular man in the village was stoned to death after being accused of witchcraft, following the death of a boy. She said that in her village when someone suddenly dies, people blame each other for the death and allege that the deceased was a victim of witchcraft.
This strengthened Angela’s conviction to study pathology. Angela wants to be the first point of contact for the police to examine the cause of death and help people understand how a victim died in order to prevent attacks on innocent people.
“I believe that this will even prevent segregation because once an innocent person is branded a witch, the society immediately isolates him,” Angela observed, further saying that she also wants to help the police solve crimes associated with murder. Angela never let anything come between her and the zeal to pursue the dream. Even when she had a serious bout of asthma that saw her admitted to the hospital for three days prior to writing her national primary school examination, she still sat for the exams. Angela took the examinations while on the hospital bed.
And she made it.
She was selected to one of the reputable secondary schools in the country. Unfortunately, that also marked a rough journey for her. Angela fell into the predicament that the majority of the people living in the rural areas of Malawi face – tuition fees problems. Her guardian, just like 80 percent of the population in the community, is a small-time farmer so her selection to secondary school brought him both joy and fear. Joy because his daughter was among the 16 percent of children who transition to secondary school in the country.
Fear because he had no idea how he would sustain Angela in a school whose tuition fees was multiple times his minimum wage. Her education was not at all a smooth sail. Angela recalls a time that she was sent out of class and back home because she had an outstanding tuition fees balance. She stayed home for a week and her guardian struggled to raise the balance, even going to the extent of selling the only bag of maize that he had in the house to pay the outstanding balance. At one point, a well-wisher footed her tuition fees bill.
This was only a scratch in the surface since Angela still had four more years to complete her secondary school and sourcing the money for the subsequent terms would not be easy for her guardian.
“I was psychologically affected and I failed to focus in class. Every day was a frightening experience. How could I focus when I did not know where the money to pay my next tuition fees would come from?” she said. Angela’s academic performance even started noticeably declining.
It was in 2018 when she was among the girls that we sponsored in our secondary school scholarship programme, Angela called it “the best thing that ever happened to me”. She explained that she now feels free knowing that her fees problems have been permanently taken care of. She said that it gives her peace of mind since her future and ambitions are now secure courtesy of the scholarship. Angela has gone full throttle in preparing herself for the pathology profession. She revealed that she wants to become strong and get rid of the fear of dead bodies so she would always be among those attending funeral wakes.
“The dead don’t frighten me. Why should I be scared of them? They are what I will mostly be working with very soon,” she laughed, adding “I will be the Pathologist I have always wanted to be. I believe it is possible and it will happen.”
Credits: our secondary school scholarship programme is made possible through the support of various sponsors. Lisa Leaf, our UK Ambassador has been very key in fundraising for the programme by championing different types of efforts. To our donors, supporters and partners who have donated to this cause, we greatly value your contributions.