BY IDRISS ALI NASSAH
The arrogance, the insensitivity, of thinking that your reality is everyone else’s reality can be blinding at times. Many people are ranting and shaming Fyness Magonjwa with little understanding of the structural, societal, economic, inequality barriers that she—and many young women like her—have to overcome everyday to actualize their dreams and their very existence. The problem we have in Malawi is that there is a loud section that uses their education, their degrees, the schools they attended to look down on others. It is possible to speak polished English, to have gone to the best schools, but remain without wisdom.
In shaming Fyness Magonjwa’s spoken english, balance is important. I run a small operation in my village, in Machinga, that seeks to keep young girls in school. Its a struggle. Their needs are many—from books, to clothing, to sanitary pads, to food. They need after-school activities but you have to balance that with the demands of fetching water and firewood and working the fields. They also need motivation, they need role models, especially females who have overcome their type of circumstances to make something of themselves.
Still the barriers are momentous—schools are few and far between, some walk many miles to get there. The schools are either run-down or classes are under trees and the teachers are themselves poorly trained, not properly supervised and lack motivation. The parents don’t necessarily see the value of a girl’s education. And after Chinamwali, the girls are picked off for early marriages at a frightening rate. The school dropout rates are high in rural Malawi, and worse in rural Balaka, Machinga, Mangochi. To beat such odds takes a very special kind of person. To embrace and celebrate Fyness Magonjwa won’t come naturally to the privileged, but they have to open their eyes to the lived reality of others.
If any one of the girls I support in my village were to turn out like Fyness Magonjwa, and attempted to speak in English on national TV like she did the other day; I’d die a very happy person.