Two weeks ago 1,654 young Malawians saw the road to success carefully paved for them as they graduated from University of Malawi at College of Medicine complex.
The road is not what any of them would call easy as delays, interruptions and other academic hiccups left many of them unsure of whether the day would come, but it did and among the happy faces adorned with hats was that of Mike Demesterb Nkhoma.
Born at Bwaila Hospital in Lilongwe, Nkhoma grew up with his four siblings in a home he describes as average but warm.
"My father was a car mechanic and my mother earned a bit of a living through selling beans and groundnuts. We were a loving family. We were united though it was hard for my parents to make ends meet," said the ecstatic graduate.
Loss of a mother
When Mike was sixteen his mother took ill and passed away. At the time he was in the first year of secondary school and his two sisters and two brothers now had only their father to look to for financial support.
"Times became hard. My father tried to care for all of us but he had already had a hard time sourcing business before my mother's death. When she died, he lost his spark and eventually took up a job as a driver. That was not enough money for us," says Nkhoma.
In 2000 the young doctor's father took ill and the days grew darker. He was in form two going to form three at the time and he made the decision to drop out of school.
"I had lived a life of day to day living. Around us were mechanics, drivers, loafers, guards and garden boys. School wasn't interesting to me. I knew I had to do what I could to find money to help out at home but that was the height of my ambitions. I saw no need for an education. In fact such things as degrees never featured in my life," Mike explains.
Too young to be a guard
By that time his elder sister had married and his younger brothers were also trying their best to get an education on the little the family put together for their overall upkeep and fees. This is when his sister contacted him and informed him that someone was looking for a guard or a garden boy and he ought to try it out.
On the search for employment at the time the job was a lucky break for the young man, only he didn't know just how lucky it would turn out to be.
"When I met Mike I was a lecturer at KCN dealing with students within the same age range. I was looking for a guard at the time and he was concerned that he was perhaps too young for such a job. I agreed and in my attempt to assist him with his economic situation we decided that he might as well take up the post of gardener," explains Juliana Lunguzi.
She says that when she looked at him more closely she saw something that told her that this young man should be going to school. So she decided to assist him with school while he worked part time for her so that his family could receive the assistance he had set out for.
Nkhoma picked up his form three at Mbizi Community Desk Secondary school where due to Malawi National Examination Board's (Maneb) JC result delays he ended up feeling hopeless again.
Eleven points at MSCE
"When Juliana saw this she told me to find a better school. A boarding school and I found one in Ntcheu at Lakeview Secondary School. While I was there she noticed that my performance was good and decided to move me to Phwezi Boys Secondary School where I passed with eleven points.
Juliana Lunguzi's guidance gave the young man the spark he needed to appreciate an education and challenged him to see how far he could go. And though he had never had an interest in science, he found himself completing form four with three points in Science, a point and distinction in Agriculture, a point in Mathematics, two points in Biology, three for English.
"After I received my results I applied for Pre-Med at College of medicine. I passed and was selected in 2005. My father had always said that I would be a doctor when I was a child. But in those kinds of circumstances, its not something one takes seriously," says Nkhoma.
Proud holder of an MBBS
On 26 October 2012, Mike held his Bachelors of Surgery and Bachelors of Medicine degree. He says that his story, what Lunguzi did for him has changed his life forever.
"Juliana is the angel that God used to make my father's wishes come true. It is not just my destiny she had helped but that of my entire family. When i went back to school, my sister had dropped out of form three. When she saw that I was enrolled at Collage of Medicine it motivated her to go back to school and she is now a third year student at Kamuzu College of Nursing. My two younger brothers are now also passionate about education. I am able to support all their academic pursuits. And Juliana is still by my side.
Mike describes Lunguzi as a God send that many other Malawians are in need of. In his presentation titled "The Crisis of Transformation: Human resources Development Strategies for Low Growth Economies, Botswana Tertiary Education Council's Patrick Molutsi revealed that 80 percent of secondary school graduates in Malawi return to their villages as they can neither find a job or employ themselves. And at the graduation ceremony on October 26, the state president acknowledged that there is need for Malawi's government to improve the quality of higher education in the country. But how many are given a chance to embrace education and a future from the roots?
"My whole family has raised Mike. During college days he was staying with my Mother, my sister Annastazzia helped him during secondary school with tutorials and school logistics I have basically been a counselor, mentor and provider while he got a home from the rest of my family. His hard work and non-demanding spirit encouraged me to do more from the beginning. And it goes to show that many of those out there who have no future or hope to speak of are not without souls. They have abilities, and dreams that just a helping hand can shape into rich destinies," concludes Lunguzi.
Nkhoma's appeal is that the Malawians who have plenty and do nothing with it need to remember those who have literary nothing. His experiences in life may have shaped his destiny from within but the chance that Lunguzi gave him is what has brought it to pass. Given a helping hand, how many more doctors, engineers, business owners and education personnel would Malawi have? Well, they are out there, in the street, in the village looking for someone to feed their hope and donors are not the real ticket.