The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of developing local capacity to rapidly detect and contain the novel disease at country level. This cannot be done without well trained medical laboratory scientist and technicians. LIN believes in developing and cultivating the potential of young people in Malawi. LIN supports outstanding students in their studies through a scholarship program administered by the Community Development Departmnent. Kennedy Mulungu is a medical laboratory scientist in-training and he shares his story with us.

Interview with Kennedy Mulungu, student at College of Medicine, University of Malawi.

Kennedy is the third born child in a family of four children. His family resided in the rural areas of Chitipa District, the most northern district in Malawi, and sold mangos for a living. Kennedy faced the toughest side of life. Early drinking initiation, violence and sexual risk exposure were inevitable to the majority of young people his area where drinking and smoking Indian hemp were rampant. He used to sell roasted groundnuts in nightclubs and bars to find money to purchase school materials. He would go to school without breakfast, and sometimes the family could only eat once in a day. The aftermath of such grave circumstances were that his elder sister and brother dropped out of school and got married early.

Kennedy narrated the state of poverty they were in: “I was very discouraged to continue with school and l was at an ounce of dropping out due to the mockery words my teachers used to tell me. I remember a day when one of my teachers told me to go in front so that the whole class should mock me just because l put on a short which she said its like an underwear and was told to buy another short. Unfortunately that was the only short l had and l went back  home, missed exams, stayed the whole month till l found money to buy another short.”

Despite the circumstances he worked very hard and managed to pass primary school leaving certificate of education (PSLCE) and was selected to a National secondary school, Mzuzu Government secondary school. Looking at the depth of family is, under the poverty line, a group of teachers from primary school contributed from their pocket for the first school fees, transport and pocket money because he was the only one who was selected to a national secondary school from the town of Chitipa. Life at high school level was very tough due to the financial situation of the family, Kennedy flashed back and said “l used to struggle for fees and pocket money as such my plans were to quit education because l had no one in my family line (clan) who had gone further with education so as to motivate and inspire me, l used to be a confused, always frustrated and negative about myself.”

Luke international (LIN) change the whole story by offering a scholarship to Kennedy when he was in Form 3. Through counseling and guidance from LIN, he started looking at life in a different way.

I was very motivated by LIN to work hard at secondary school and never to quit, in due course and in secondary school I was awarded a certificate of excellence in grasping biological concepts and eventually l passed my high school exams with 9 points and selected to a public university,the University of Malawi, College of Medicine to study medical laboratory sciences where LIN continue to support.

Through the experiences he has obtained from rotating in various clinical and research based facilities during his first three years of college, has mastered a wide spectrum of laboratory diagnostic tests and come to understand the value of understanding and application of medical research and microbiology is especially important when it comes combating infectious diseases. As a student, he has also taken deliberate steps to work with some research facilities. He became a member of the young researchers’ forum which he believes is a good foundation to understanding the various applications of microbial health programs.

Kennedy is also leading several initiatives through youth forums. He lead a forum for COVID-19 rapid response where he organised youths in Chitipa. They raised funds and donated soap, masks and hand sanitizers to form 4 students who they were not allowed to attend classes without these materials.

He led a sexual and reproductive health campaign in Chitipa where they embarked in a mass civic education to youths on the consequences of mistimed pregnancies through poems and essay writing competitions. This came after realizing that mistimed pregnancies amongst youths in his society were on a rise. He has further linked the youth forum to the Chitipa Market Council programs, working collaboratively with them in public sanitation projects in Chitipa district.

In his free time, Kennedy likes playing lawn tennis and football and has been awarded different medals in sports, including medal for the best football striker of a tournament. Kennedy is grateful for the support LIN is rendering for his studies from 2016 to date. He is a role model to many youths in his village in Chitipa and also to the wider group of students that are involved in LIN’s projects.

I am a happy and grateful person because of LIN, it has restored my health and dignity, l stand to spearhead and advocate for change in the global landscape.

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