CAMFED Association member at MUST University in Malawi

My name is Enelesi. I am from Mwanza district in Malawi. I was born in a family of three children, two boys and one girl. I am the second born child in the family.

My education journey hasn’t been easy, I faced a lot of challenges. I started my primary school at a government school in Mwanza district, and did well. At that time I had a kind neighbor who inspired me a lot. She used to say ‘Enelesi, you should work hard. You must be selected for our local secondary school so that I can teach you.’

I did well in primary school and was happy to be selected for secondary. It was only when I arrived at my new secondary school that I realised that my neighbor was a CAMFED Teacher Mentor – a government teacher trained to provide emotional support to students. She is my role model!

I was pleased to be in my new school, but it was far away from home and I had to walk five kilometers (more than three miles) each way. On top of this, I would often have to go to school without eating anything. Tired and hungry, my performance in class was affected. The situation became even worse when, part way through Form 2, my parents could no longer afford to pay my school fees.

I was on the brink of dropping out completely, when I received a call from my Teacher Mentor to say I had been chosen to receive support from CAMFED. CAMFED would pay my boarding fees, school fees, and other necessities such as school bags, school uniforms, school shoes, and soap. I thought, “Wow!” and from that moment my life changed.

My parents did not have the chance to learn to read and write. I’m the first person in my family to go to secondary school.

I was happy to be in school, but I still faced challenges. The school had a science lab, but lacked resources and equipment. meaning it was hard for us to learn practical skills. Most of the time the teacher would just explain the theory to us. Lacking resources was difficult, but I stayed focused and my Teacher Mentor and members of the  CAMFED Association encouraged me to study hard.

I was even more inspired when Angeline Murimirwa, the Executive Director for CAMFED in Africa, came to my secondary school and shared her story. Her words encouraged me not to look down upon myself and to always aim high.

I did well in my MSCE (Malawi Secondary Certificate of Education), particularly in sciences, so I applied for a Bachelors of Earth Sciences at Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST). I was accepted to start this four-year program in 2015 with CAMFED sponsoring my fees.

Enelesi Nsamila, a CAMA Tertiary Graduate working at MUST

Enelesi is a trailblazer in her community. (Photo: CAMFED/Harriet Grigg)

In my first year at university there were 5 girls and 70 boys. By the time we were finishing this course, we were only 3 girls and 32 boys. Many of the other students came from wealthy families and from well known national secondary schools in Malawi, and I felt isolated coming from a poor family. I wanted to prove myself, so I attended all my classes and made sure to ask my lecturers lots of questions.

I chose to study Earth Sciences because I am interested in the biosphere, oceans and the solid earth. We study mineralogy, hydrogeology, and the geology of the land. We have an energy crisis here in Malawi, so learning about renewable, geothermal energy is important.

Many people here depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, so understanding what soil type is in a particular area can help with crop selection and increase farming yields. I also studied hydrology, which is the combination of the study of water and geology, studying the availability of water, and water quality.

My perseverance paid off and in 2019 I graduated from MUST and was one of only three students awarded a distinction.

I proved that it’s not about the circumstances that you grow up in, it’s about what you are made of.

At MUST they have a policy that if a student graduates with a distinction, they give him or her an appointment to be an associate lecturer. So after finishing my bachelors degree, I received an appointment from MUST.

Right now, I’m the breadwinner in my family. I’m independent, empowered, and I’m a leader of change.

In 10 years time, I want to have a consultancy company in engineering geology. In Malawi, we experience a lot of earthquakes, so I want to be able to give precautions, measures on how people can build their houses properly so they can withstand earthquakes and tremors.

After graduating school, I also joined the CAMFED Association – the network of young women dedicated to plowing back the benefits of their education to the next generation. As a CAMFED Association member I conduct philanthropic activities like going to CAMFED partner secondary schools near Blantyre to talk to the students and inspire them. I encourage them to work hard so that they can go to university — and to apply for science and technology related programs. In the university I also do philanthropic activities and role modelling sessions for young women. Being a volunteer and giving back to others, it increases your opportunities.

Girls really need to have women they can look up to as leaders, because it serves as a guiding light to them when they have big goals to achieve in life.

I advise my fellow young women, that if you want to be successful, if you want to do well in college, don’t be a procrastinator. A procrastinator is someone who is waiting for the last minute to take action. Let’s not be procrastinators, let’s not be firefighters.

To be a transformative leader – a leader who is creative, who is innovative, you have to push harder, always utilize each and every moment that you have to sharpen your skills.

Let’s extend the influence of the CAMFED Association. We can only do that if we go higher in our careers, if we dream big and strive to be the best.

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As a passionate champion for girls’ education, I have grown a well-established reputation in my community and beyond, as an anti-child marriage activist. I regularly facilitates awareness campaigns around child marriage, speaking out in front of large groups of parents and children, teachers and school committee members, together with local traditional leaders, mother support groups, social welfare officers and the police.

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