In the coming weeks, the blog will introduce each of the eleven graduate students of Cohort 2. We begin with Mike Kumwamba, who received his undergraduate degree from Lakeland in 2007, and Frank Mbwana who is in the U.S. for the first time.
Mike Kumwamba LC ‘07
Mike lives in Blantyre in southern Malawi with his wife, an elementary school teacher, and his two daughters, ages 10 and 3. Since 2008, he has worked at the Teacher Training College there. Mike is excited to be back at Lakeland. He said that although there are some very noticeable physical changes to the campus since he was here eight years ago, “the feeling on campus is the same. It is a home away from home.”
Mike reminisced about the many important things he had learned during his undergraduate years from professors like Khodavandi, Hilke, and Elzinga. He spoke highly of all of them and has tried to impart to his students the many lessons he learned here. First and foremost, he learned from Dr. Khodavandi that the teacher is a model for the learner. “If the teacher misbehaves, the learners will follow suit,” he said.
Mike acknowledged that he had very good role models when he was growing up, mainly his own father, mother, and brothers who helped to raise him. “The spirit to upgrade myself was in me for a long, long time. This spirit came from my father, who said, ‘for you to be independent, you need to work hard in school.’” Mike’s sister is also far from home, working on her master’s degree in education in Australia, and will complete her studies this coming December. “When I talk to my sister,” he said, “we always remind each other what our father said.”
Mike knows that the learning he will do at Lakeland is going to be condensed and very challenging. He said, “I believe that perseverance pays. Sometimes it looks like the fight is not going your way, but like it says in the Bob Marley song, “You can get it if you really want it.” He is confident he is up to the task of obtaining his master’s degree in education in order to bring new knowledge about early grade reading instruction home to Malawi.
Frank is married and has three children, two sons, 18 and 14, and a daughter, 9. His wife runs a small family business. He was recently re-assigned from Kasungu to the newly opened TTC in Phalombe. “I miss my family,” he said, “but I’m so excited to be here.”
Before being posted to Phalombe, Frank worked in Kasunga for six years. Prior to that, he was a primary school teacher for nine years and then a secondary teacher for four more years. It was at that point that he went to Domasi College in Malawi to receive his BA degree and become a teacher of teachers.
I asked him what his first impressions are of Lakeland. He replied, “For me, this is an ideal college. Even though I have been here a very short time, I can tell that being out in the country, it is a setting that allows students to focus on their work.” As far as what made him want to come here, he said he has always wanted to travel outside Malawi. He also pointed to the example of his friend and co-worker Ndamyo Mwanyongo, one of the graduate students in last year’s cohort. “She inspired me a lot,” he said.
When I asked Frank what his hopes are for his time at Lakeland he said there are two things. First, he wants to successfully achieve his masters degree. Second, he wants to be instrumental in helping to bring about change in Malawi to improve early grade reading instruction.
Frank reported feeling very at ease and happy to find that people are kind and helpful in Wisconsin. Whereas Mike recognizes Lakeland as a “home away from home,” having been here before, Frank has a slightly different take on it. Feeling the warmth and friendship extended to him by new friends, Frank described Lakeland as “a home in another home.” However one describes it, Lakeland is certainly that, a home to many of us, near and far.
This post is written by Lisa Vihos on behalf of Lakeland College. The program is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of this blog are the responsibility of Lakeland College and do not necessarily reflect the views of the USAID or the United States Government.