By Chisomo Banda

I have learnt to never let negativity define me. Negativity has a way of lowering one’s self-esteem, turning you into a walking carcass buried in self-doubt.

It all started with a question from a lecturer on my first day of university.

“What program are you studying?’ he asked.

“Economics…”, he cut me mid-air before I could finish my words, “Amawida kuno”, he threatened me.

Not wanting to be let down I shot back with confidence, “Koma ine sadzandiwida.”

My confidence was short-lived as days later; the news of students being withdrawn on academic grounds rung louder in my circles, it made me nervous.  My classmates, the ones whom we were supposed to encourage each other, were on the forefront instilling fear in me.

Every time I failed in class work, they would laugh at me saying it could have been better for you if you had majored in Social Work and not Economics. I always replied with positive response but deep down I would cry about it and admit that maybe I made a wrong choice.

Thankfully, my roommate, who was in Third year then, was very supportive.  She encouraged me that she also went through the same and she did not let what people talked about her failure define her. That moment I redefined my focus.  I started seeing myself differently, I never allowed my circumstances to define me, I chose to be a master of them.

 Five years down the line, I am a proud holder of Bachelor’s degree of Social Science in Economics. The same path people told me I would never go far. This made me realize that we fail because we doubt ourselves and the doubt comes from what other people have told us.

Chisomo: Most of us fail because we let people’s opinions shape us.

My struggle in academics motivated me to start mentoring others. I love mentorship because it’s my way of utilizing my time to help other youths to focus on things that matter, and not their mistakes.   

I realized that there are a lot of youths who may be in the same situation as I was years ago, and this inspired me to join the YES-Initiative Mentors group. My aim is to help them rise up and work at achieving their goals.  I realized that my story could help inspire someone this the first time I went for a mentorship session. The team’s leader, Samuel invited me just as one of the attendants, I wasn’t sure that I had enough confidence and inspiration to speak. But after he finished his talk, he asked me if I had something to tell the students. I did not have much to say, but the feedback I got from the students showed that they were inspired. After the session, many students came to me with a lot of questions.

 This was the genesis of my journey into mentorship.  Finally, I had my inspiration and I told Samuel not to leave me behind when the next session is planned.

Mentorship is not only important to the secondary school students we mentor; it also benefits us the mentors. Personally, I have really learnt a lot from my fellow mentors and they are my motivation and support system.

I hope my story will not only motivate secondary school students, but it will also inspire you to become a mentor. Your story may change someone’s future.  

*Chisomo Banda is one of the mentors in our Secondary School Mentorship Program. She graduated from the Catholic University of Malawi with a  Bachelor of Social Sciences (Economics) in 2019.