‘We are largely who we are because we have had someone who believed in us when we couldn’t believe in ourselves’.

I grew up in community characterised by poverty, illiteracy, early marriages, un wanted pregnancies and less value of girl child education. A community that confined ones dreams and ambitions around itself, in other words, one would only want to become and achieve what was seen in the community. Later on in life, I was given an opportunity to move to a city to continue with my education. In the city, I saw and appreciated the progression of life and all the opportunities available and awaiting everyone. My learning in the city was made easier when I met wonderful teachers who believed in my incapability’s, who praised every little stride I made and celebrated every small success. Therefore, the opportunity that I was given to learn, plus the amazing mentors and role models I found in my teachers contributed to the success of my story, hence I pledged to do the same.

Later in secondary school, I decided to take a career path that would focus on helping people who are underprivileged and disadvantaged to access equal opportunities available in life. My focus was broad at that time; as I was thinking of eradication of poverty, ending early marriages and early pregnancies, however my goals were defined when I enrolled in an Education Degree in the university. I then discovered that education is key to dealing with a lot of problems and challenges and it is the only force that drives change and development. Hence, I decided that I will fight for equal access to quality education despite one’s background, status and disability.

I started working at a national boarding secondary school immediately after finishing College. Blantyre secondary school is one of the biggest national schools in the city of Blantyre in Malawi that has a large population of special needs students. I was met with the biggest challenge that I was never prepared for; to teach students with different disabilities and impairments. I have students with visual impairment, hearing impairment, physical challenge and multiple learning difficulties. I had to adjust immediately to accommodate all of them in my lesson. I did all that I knew I could to meet their different educational needs. I successfully managed to include the other students because communication was possible despite their disabilities, but I could not communicate with students with Hearing impairment, I did not know sign language, so they were always left out in the lessons. I battled within me for a long time because I knew that what I was doing was denying them the chance to learn and become better. I Would go in and out of the class discontented with what I was doing. Every term these students would fail examinations and worse still they never passed the national examinations that qualifies one for University placement. My prayer was for God to empower me to be able to do more for them. In 2017, a wrote a proposal asking for a small grant of $2000 from IREX called Global Teacher Grant to initiate a project at my school in order to support the learning of the students with Hearing impairment and I was successful. 

The first thing I did with the grant was to conduct a two days’ workshop where all teachers were trained in sign language. I did not know sign language myself, so i hired an instructor who taught us the language, this was done to empower all teachers to be able to communicate with the students accordingly. Secondly, through the involvement of government officials, I requested for a specialist teacher who would do sign language interpretation in class, revision work and remedial classes for students with hearing impairment. Finally, I bought technological equipment like, camera, TV screen. These were used to record videos of lessons and then get them captioned, to be watched later by the students. When the small funding had finished, I started downloading YouTube videos of educative lesson using my money to sustain the project. This video method is powerful up to date because it gives the students the opportunity to revise class work at their own time. In addition, the captions on the videos help the students to know the spelling of words. This has improved the writing and reading skills of the learners.

On top of that, i renovated a resource room which was inhabitable at the school and turned it into a computer resource room where the hearing impaired students find safe space to learn with their special teacher at their own pace. This is my joy, now I see the students participating in class; asking and answering questions through the interpreter and their performance has also greatly improved. I am happy that they have been given the same opportunity that others have, of acquiring relevant knowledge and skills for their development and self-reliance. Bringing change and impacting lives does not always need a lot of resources but a determined heart that understand the need for change; total inclusion is possible, everyone must strive to achieve it. it takes changing one student, one teacher and one community at a time to change the world. My desire is to reach out to more students in different schools.

Chifuniro M’manga Kamwendo

is a self-motivated and highly skilled educator. Holding a Bachelor’s Degree in Education Humanities, she is currently doing a Master’s Degree in Policy Planning and leadership.

As part of profession development Chifuniro attended a course in Monitoring and Evaluation in 2015, Teaching and Excellence Achievement in the USA in 2017 and a training in disability mainstreaming in 2019.

She is specialized in teaching English as a second language (ESL) and special needs education and she also has relevant professional experience gained from teaching in a government secondary school for seven years and in an American High school for two weeks.

Her passion for public service drove her to initiate a girl’s empowerment program and founded a school based project to improve teaching and learning for students with hearing impairment.

She advocates for total inclusion of special needs students in schools, so they access and benefit from the opportunities available in education,

In 2019, Chifuniro was nominated into the Top 50 of the best teachers in the world by The Varkey Foundation, which has qualified her to become a Varkey Teacher Ambassador for Malawi, who mission is to ensure that every child access equal quality education without any barriers.

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