Clinton event inspires scholar to improve education in Malawi

In Malawi, access to education remains a challenge. Potential students at every level are hindered by factors like inadequate financing and a lack of information.

In October, Geoffrey Kampupu Alex Ziba participated in the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) in Boston, an annual meeting where students, university representatives, experts and celebrities develop innovative solutions to pressing global challenges.

Ziba, a scholar with the Borlaug Higher Education for Agricultural Research and Development (BHEARD) program, is on track to earn a master of science degree in agricultural economics at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. Prior to joining the University of Pretoria in January 2016, he was an economist with the Malawian government.

The goal of BHEARD, supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development, is to develop agricultural scientists and increase agricultural research capacity in its partner countries. The program is named after Dr. Norman Borlaug, an American biologist, humanitarian and Nobel laureate who has been called “the father of the Green Revolution.”

Ziba described CGIU as an “eye-opening” and “life-changing” event, which provided him with networking opportunities across the globe. He now has friends in Argentina, Bolivia, Switzerland, the United States, Israel and China, among others. Listening to President Bill Clinton and others speak during the event gave Ziba the opportunity to reflect on pressing challenges in his home country, including access to education.

In Malawi, potential students are hindered by factors like inadequate financing and a lack of information. Ziba thinks the flow of information, as well as financing and infrastructure, need to be strengthened to improve access to education at every level.

After completing his studies, Ziba intends to return to Malawi and aid its various development activities. His vision for his country includes the establishment of an international consultancy firm, encouragement of youth empowerment and engagement in large-scale commercial farming and international transportation. He also wants to advocate for greater access to education for eligible individuals across the country.

Ziba believes education is beneficial for the growth and development of people, as well as the growth and development of countries. Especially important is the need to prepare prospective students for higher education, which will help them pick careers that suit them best.

He has a number of ideas for helping prepare prospective students for higher education: conduct career guidance sessions in beneficiary areas; distribute posters, fliers and related material with information on career guidance and choices; establish various social media platforms for information sharing. It’s also important the students know the expectations, opportunities, challenges and coping mechanisms associated with college life.

Ziba has other goals, too: lobby for the establishment of a national database that keeps track of student information, and of various scholarship schemes in secondary/high schools; ensure the provision of adequate teaching and learning materials, as well as infrastructure, in all educational facilities; lobby government and other development partners to ensure that necessary facilities and materials are provided to learners; conduct awareness campaigns that ask communities to provide locally available materials such as sand and bricks, to help erect a durable infrastructure.

Ziba plans to focus his efforts on major Malawian cities like Blantyre, Zomba, Lilongwe and Mzuzu. Most secondary/high school students move to these cities after their schooling. The cities are categorized into urban and rural areas, so multiple beneficiaries can be reached.

– Matt Milkovich

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