Masililo is a Senior Social Scientist at ZESCO.
My name is Masililo Mwiya Sitali and this is my story. Born in a family of 12 children, with parents who could barely manage to fend for all of us, my childhood was certainly not an easy one. One thing I would applaud my parents for, was that no matter how poor we were, they ensured we all had access to education. My siblings and I would cover a distance of 15 kilometers when going to school and another 15 when heading back home.
Unlike other children who had more than the basic needs, I for one had a rough childhood. We could not afford electricity all the time so we would use
candles to study and on nights when my parents could not buy enough candles to light up our rooms we would have no choice but to study from school before going home. My parents always
told us to do our best in school and to look beyond our situation at the time.
At some point in my life, I really wanted to go to a boarding school, I told myself if only I can go to a boarding school I will be able to have some of the luxuries my parents could not give me, what I had in mind when I said the luxuries was electricity, a bed to myself, proper food and most especially I would have enough time to focus on my studies. Unfortunately, my parents could not afford to send me to a boarding school because they could not meet my needs while in boarding.
Due to all that I went through during my childhood, I promised myself to always work hard and to never look down on anyone like many did to me. I could not have the fanciest clothes, but to my parents all that mattered was ensuring their children were dressed, we often wore the same clothes nearly all the time and sometimes we would exchange clothes so that people would think we have a lot of clothes.
Despite all the aforementioned challenges, I managed to complete my Grade 12 in 2004 at Muoyo High school in Nalolo District, Western Province. It was not easy as my school did not have sufficient study materials for the pupils. I learnt that a focused person can achieve anything he/she puts his/her mind to do.
The irony came in when I wanted to do my tertiary education. Being the 10th born of 12 children and meeting the needs of every child was the difficult part. I knew that my parents could not manage to sponsor my tertiary education because they could barely manage feeding my siblings. I looked for some piece work that would help me apply at different universities while using most of my income to help buy some groceries at home.
I always told my parents how I wanted to be the first graduate in my family and I told them how I would one day make them proud because I would get my degree from the highest learning institution in Zambia. I did not know why I was so ambitious and bold, but my parents would always encourage me and told me to never allow my gender define me as I could do anything through Christ who strengthens me.
In 2005 I was accepted at the University of Zambia, it felt like I was living my dream till I started thinking of where and how I would raise enough money for my tuition fees. It was then that I saw an advert from the Bursaries Committee now called the Higher Education Loans and Scholarships Board (HELSB).
Unfortunately, I was not on the first selection, which made me very sad and I was hurt. I, however, appealed and I was very lucky to have been given my loan in my second semester. The reason I applied for a loan was because even though I had performed very well at Grade 12, my parents could not afford to pay for my tuition fees not to talk of registration fees. I now have a Bachelors degree in Geography.
I would like to appeal to my colleagues who were awarded a student loan to start paying back so that HELSB can support other students who are unable to pay for their tertiary education. It is our responsibility as loan beneficiaries to pay back. There are so many vulnerable children in society with very good points but are unable to proceed with their tertiary education because their parents might not have the funds to sponsor them.
I would like to thank the Government of the Republic of Zambia for awarding me the loan.