Sosten Jolam, the sixth born in a family of nine, grew up in Gwirize village in Salima district, a community famous for its devotion to the Nyau traditional dance of the Chewa tribe. It influenced him to start Standard One classes at the late age of nine, instead of the government-recommended age of six.

Currently, Sosten is a Form Three student at Msalura Community Day Secondary School (CDSS). However, the journey to where he is now was not easy.

“When I finished standard three, I asked my brother who lived in the nearest township if I could stay with him. I had hoped that if I could move to that area, I would be able to achieve my dreams of becoming a teacher one day. My brother accepted my request on the condition that he would only provide me with shelter and food. Anything to do with my school would be my own responsibility since he too struggled financially,” narrated Sosten.

True to his aspiration, Sosten completed his primary school education and was selected to Msalura CDSS, but that marked the birth of another turmoil.

The fees for the secondary school he was selected to were exorbitant, and his parents could not afford them. Both are subsistence farmers and in Form One, they struggled to pay Sosten’s fees for the first term. For the next two terms, he barely attended class, affecting his performance.

“In Form Two, my struggles continued until a teacher identified someone who paid my fees only for that year, and I wrote the Junior Certificate of Education examinations,” said Sosten with a lazy smile.

Reflecting on the ordeals of his first two years of secondary school, Sosten informed his parents of his intention to drop out of school since they could no longer support him. His entire family agreed with the decision.

Just after writing the Form Two Junior Certificate of Education Examinations, without even waiting for the examination results, Sosten had already made peace with the idea of dropping out of school as he saw no hope and future due to lack of tuition fees.

On the first day of the new academic year, he went to school to bid farewell to his friends and told them he would not proceed with his education despite passing the JCE examinations with flying colors.

Fortunately, at the same time, the Youth Empowerment and Support Initiative (YESI) rolled out the Janet Allan Education Fund at his school, and Sosten met the eligibility criteria for the scholarship program.

“My teacher heard of my story and informed me that there was an organization that would help me stay in school, and I was overjoyed. I thank God, my sponsors, and my teacher for considering my situation as I know that without them, I wouldn’t have been in school today,” narrated Sosten.

The Janet Allan Education Fund supports 24 students from five schools under YESI, which established a scholarship program to educate brilliant young students from Salima. The fund comes with support from the Allan Family and other well-wishers in memory of their mother and friend, Janet Allan, who died at the age of 73 in February 2022.