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“After seeing all the opportunities that were slipping away from my hands, I just wanted to grab something – some skill, some education, some way to earn a living, just something unique that cannot be taken away from me”

There is more in that smile. There is hope in that smile, there is courageousness, ambition and spirit, in that smile. She smiles because she is now about to complete the race, the race towards attaining the most important goal of her life – “self-reliance”, she says.  But let me not rush you.

Born in a family of 2 sisters, Tiwonge is a first born, aged 20. Tiwonge wrote her Primary School Leaving Certificate’s exams in Kasungu and left for Ntcheu where her parents relocated to. There she attended her secondary school education and wrote her MSCE exams in 2019. She didn’t really perform well in her exams. She goofed, big time, one would say.

However, this is not what she had envisioned her fate would be. She was more than capable to pass her final secondary school exams with flying colors. But how can you fly when your wings are clipped? How can you pass your exams without attending classes? And how can you attend classes without paying school fees? Your guess is as good as mine. Tiwonge’s parents being subsistent farmers meant that they can only be able to farm enough for home consumption. Tiwonge’s parents had struggles paying her school fees to the extent that they only managed to pay her examination fees only. When Tiwonge got into form 3, things become very difficult for her as school fees was very hard to come by. She could attend only few classes each term as she was consistently chased out of class due to non-payment of school fees. When she wrote exams, she performed dismally, as one would expect. This was very hard for her to take in, she says. “I was very upset to see that I did not do well in my exams just because I was being chased out of class because of school fees despite being intelligent”.

Such is the case that Tiwonge went to her aunt who resides in Lilongwe. There she asked her aunt to assist her with school fees so that she could go back to school. Her prayers were answered as she was sent back to school, to rewrite her secondary school exams. However, sometimes it just never rains, but it pours. While she was in her second term in Form 3, came the Covid19 pandemic. Schools were closed, classes – disrupted. World economies, shattered. Tiwonge was not spared. She went back to stay at home.

When classes resumed, her aunt could no longer afford to pay Tiwonge’s school fees due to the effects of the Covid19 on economies. This again, was very hard for her to take in. Just when she was fully concentrated on changing her life – education wise. She fell the world crumbling on her shoulders. However, she did not give up. Out of the sour grapes that the world had thrown at her, she made something sweet. Tiwonge finally got a job after a long time of searching. A till attendant in a supermarket she would become, for about 10 months.  Then it happened again. The supermarket got closed. She lost her job.

Then and then, Tiwonge sat down in prayer searching for answers. Praying for something that cannot be taken from her. “After seeing all the opportunities that were being taken away from my hands, I just wanted something – some skill, some education, some way to earn a living, just something unique that cannot be taken away from me”, she explains. “I didn’t want to engage into any behaviors that would put my life at risk just to earn some money as some girls my age do, and I have never engaged in any transactional sex or substance abuse because of disappointments, peer pressure nor poverty because I would like to achieve my goals first”, she adds, confidently.

After she weathered that storm, then came the calm. Then came the answer she was waiting for. Her uncle informed her of There is Hope Malawi (TIH). She got to learn of opportunities that TIH offers. She grabbed that opportunity with both hands and instantly applied for a vocational training course. And what training did she chose? Plumbing.

She chose plumbing because she felt it was the best for her. She feels it’s rewarding. She has been thrilled with what she has learnt. “Technology and Entrepreneurship are the subjects that have aroused my curiosity in business” she says. Through these subjects, Tiwonge has learnt how she can manage her own business as well as how she can apply technology to the best of her abilities for personal sustenance.

She was motivated to pursue vocational training as she felt and feels that she can be her own boss. She can as well work for other companies while running her own business. Tiwonge feels that this is a skill and a job that cannot be taken away from her. “I lost the job as a Till Attendant but this skill will get me a job and a business that will be mine for the rest of my life”, she says with a cheeky smile.

Tiwonge is one of the students of the June 2022 Informal Intake. She and her peers are now awaiting graduation after completing the 6 months program. She however, would like to and will pursue further her studies. “I would like to enroll for Level 1 very soon after graduation, and finally, I would like to thank There is Hope for this life skills training opportunity”, Tiwonge sums up.

How will she benefit from the training that she has acquired? Tiwonge says that her life will change as she will be able to showcase and put to use what she has learnt. She intends to be a role model in her community to change the narrative of life skills training being a male dominated trade. She also would like to improve her community by rending her services in plumbing as well as share her skills to peers.