Malawi: A Day of Celebration, Secondary School Celebrations
Dzaleka, 18 July 2016 - June 2016 was not only the month of World Refugee Day commemorations, but also a memorable month in the life of the Dzaleka Secondary School students. On Friday 17th June 2016, 160 students, 100 boys and 60 girls, graduated from the Secondary School.
Everyone came to witness the graduation ceremony. The audience that came to celebrate this most auspicious event in the lives of these young people was made of family members - consisting of fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters of both refugee and host communities - along with teachers, the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Country Director, Mr. Rufino Seva, Project Director for schools, Mr. Percy Chikwela, JRS-JC:HEM (Jesuit Commons Higher Education at the Margins) Project Director, Mr. Joe Slaven, Pastoral Care Project Director, Father David Masikini SJ and the Education Manager from Dowa District, Mr. M.B.C. Mwale who was the guest of honour for the ceremony.
Students, like any other school day, wore their signature black and white school uniforms, with a white paper-made hat. They performed dances, performed educational plays, as well as poems in front of the audience. On the behalf of all his classmates, Chiza Bernard, delivered a moving tribute through a poem entitled, “Once Upon a Time” What follows is an excerpt from his poem:
“[…] I saw men shaping, creating, building sophisticated weapons of mass destruction and women leaving their children to jeer,
the roaring war and diseases taking advantage of the children….
Rickets, polio, measles, anaemia, and all deformities, taking heed in every one’s heart and all men, women, children all dreamed of once upon a time.
Past cannot be present but present can be the past, where all that is destroyed can be made again…..
we can all sing the song of love, joy, peace, disregarding who we are, because all of us are human
Whether black, red, white, biracial, but we all have the same heart;
whether we are in the North, West, or East, but we all live in the same globe;
whether born in Europe or South or Northern America, Australia, Africa, Asia, but we are all born from the same person, woman.
Whether you are poor, rich, intelligent, dumb, illiterate, or literate, but we all breathe the same air
and all we need is respect and heal the world and make it a better place for you and me and bring back what was ‘Once Upon a Time’”
Furthermore, The Dzaleka Community Day Secondary School (DZCDSS) Head Teacher/Principal, Oscar Tifere Banda, emphasised on the extreme power of education in day-to-day life. In other words, Mr. Banda viewed education as the most influential tool for character transformation, while urging students to behave in the right way wherever they may find themselves in the community.
“I’m glad that the number [of students graduating today] is very high. It has been a concern in Malawi, and most African countries, that girls are not able to complete secondary education because of traditional values.” said Rufino Seva, in his speech. To encourage the graduates, he gave the example of his own educational experience, as he experienced difficulties while attending school. “So education is a road to opportunities, privilege and a better future. School provides you the right knowledge, skills, hard work and with determination, it is going to help you and lead you to what you want to become in your life.” he concluded.
On his side, the guest of honour, Mr. Mwale did not hold back his words on the very day: “when the fruits are seen, it takes a long period. You must know that the world depends on you. From standard one to grade eight, and form one to form four, there is a lot of skills and knowledge that you have gained so far. The teachers have tried to emphasize knowledge on you so that you may be transformed and have good behaviour.”
“This day means joy, which symbolizes the success of life and the end of my journey at Dzaleka Secondary School”, said Oswald Salumu Mwamba, from Democratic Republic Of Congo (DRC) and DZCDSS graduate. Likewise, Claudine Hatungimana, a Rwandese girl, was very excited to finish the long journey, made possible thanks to some help not only from parents, also teachers. “Their hard work pushed me to reach this success!” Hatungimana cheerfully said.
Along their academic journey, these 160 graduates were struggling with a long list of challenges. Salumu explains: “Being a refugee is a challenge because I depend on my own and I have to provide for my basic needs. I don’t have electricity in my house, I used to study during the day and have to use a small torch at night. To overcome all these challenges I close my eyes, I forget all my problems and focused on important things in order to achieve my goals. Education brings light in my life. On the other hand, Claudine, however, said some other girls dropped out of school because similar difficulties as well as pregnancies.
Even though education is a long arduous journey, it enables many boys and girls, all over the globe, to rebuild their interrupted lives. Most interestingly, education equips them with the maximum power and willingness possible to “build networks across social lines, engage in creative problem solving and act as community leaders […] for bottom-up change”. To put it differently, education helps you to stay out of early pregnancies, tribal and inter-religious conflicts, discrimination, and therefore maintains peace in a multicultural setting and guarantees sustainable community development.
Story and video by: Robert Kabale Mbanda, Hugo Hivanove Mpenzi and Joseph Kabila Bahulule/Dzaleka Refugee Camp, Malawi