“Welcome Mr. Phukaphuka,” I warmly uttered the words as I gently stood up from my seat. I was very pleased that I was finally meeting him. We had been rescheduling our appointments for quite a while now owing to his busy schedule as a policeman cum legal officer. Mr. Aulerious Phukaphuka has been in the police service for over a decade and his resume was rife with a plethora of achievements that he is so proud of – achievements in the child rights field. Among his touted accomplishments is the establishment of a special legal clinic specially dedicated to handling child-related cases ranging from child marriages to defilement and others.
Dzaleka Refugee Camp, home to over 50,000 people from various countries, is served by Dzaleka Health Centre, a small clinic that caters for a combined total of 80,000 people including Malawians from surrounding villages. And the number keeps increasing. Due to the sheer overwhelming numbers of people that the health centre accommodates, the small hospital constantly faces acute shortages of essential drugs. At one point, the health centre ran out of anaesthetics, causing alarm, especially in the maternity section where the drug is critical.
“You know I used to be scared of Malawians,” he said and let out a big bright grin. It is hard to tell that behind that wide smile once hid a face overshadowed by the trauma that is birthed courtesy of being a refugee. “I am serious. I thought Malawians are difficult. I think it was partly because of the language barrier between us refugees and Malawians.” He continued, his smile slowly fading into a thoughtful face as his lips briefly flattened up into a straight line. He stayed muted for a few seconds, gazing into the roof of his small house as if searching for a lost symbol then glanced up again…“That was a long time ago. Now I look at Malawians and it’s interesting how I have grown to like them. I treat them as my brothers and sisters now…”
Every story that has a ‘happily ever after’ ending starts with a cliffhanger… or a shocking beginning. The story either kicks off with the hero trapped between the proverbial rock-and-a-hard-place or a related shocking scenario which he, of course, eventually overcomes. For Pemphero, a young man living in one of the poorest communities of Dowa District in Central Malawi, his story begins with almost a related situation, albeit slightly different.
Pamphil has been living in Dzaleka Refugee Camp for close to seven years now but unlike the average refugee who are trapped in the vicious and inevitable cycle of poverty, Pamphil is a qualified plumber and can ably make a living. It is something that he is proud of because seven years ago when Pamphil and his young sister stepped foot in Dzaleka, he was – in his own words– “nothing but an abandoned destitute”. The painful recollection of those early stages of his stay in Dzaleka left a deep emotional scar that Pamphil never thought he would never recover from.
Her name is Ireen, a refugee of Burundian nationality. She is also a beneficiary of our university scholarship programme. When you look at her now, it is hard to imagine that she had all along aspired to pursue legal studies and become a judge. Actually, the desire to study law manifested when she was 11 and grew stronger as she got older. But that is not what she studied when she finally found the opportunity to go to college three years ago.
Most of the time, we think about the benefits of vocational training in terms of the monetary rewards when employed. But sometimes, the rewards reaped from going through vocational training go beyond the money and the job. Sometimes, the respect that one earns in society just by owning that vocational training qualification is enough to make someone walk tall and proud. And the high self-esteem that accompanies that confidence tells it all that vocational education is not just about the money. It is so much more. And so much more is what Sella got when she trained in bricklaying in our Vocational Training Programme.
People pursue higher education for different reasons. Some do it to get a job that pays good money while others advance their studies to make a difference in the lives of others. Whatever the reasons for going further with one’s studies may be, education still remains the epitome for achieving change, whether individual or societal. When Gustave opted to upgrade his education by earning a degree, he decided to take a course that he believed would let him contribute – even a little – to make a difference in the lives of the place that he called his new home in 2003 when he became a refugee.
His carpentry bench is located deep in the rural area, in a tiny village about a 20-minute drive from the main road. It is in the middle of nowhere, far from the glamour and glory of modern life and where the majority of the villagers depend on subsistence farming to pull through life. His bench is surrounded by about seven small huts roofed with grass, plastered with mud and windowless. The bench was set up under the shade of a large tree overlooking a small house where he and his two brothers stay. Welcome to Frank’s carpentry business place. This is the bench that brings Frank income each day and lets him help his mother and father to provide meals for the family.
There is nothing nightmarish during this coronavirus pandemic than the thought of a hospital running short of oxygen gas. It is a horrifying thought, more so because it is literally a lifeline for patients of COVID-19. Oxygen gas is that thin line between life and death for such patients and lack of it will only […]