Focus on Malawi - a chance and a choice

Of the 53 films submitted by international entrants in Focus On Ability 2018, 20% came from Malawi. All of them were documentaries. The message from Malawi?

Education is everything.

In My Success, Zuze's Matoliro's film about Elizabeth Khumbanyiwa, a District Rehabilitation Officer in Chikwawa, viewers learn about her determination to seek work and do a good job despite her physical disability. She says, 'Everybody with a disability has abilities. We just need to be given a chance and a choice.'

A chance and a choice. Chances and choices are often limited by lack of education and, without a social security system there is no safety net for people in Malawi who can't find work. Begging is the only other option to sustain life.

Enock Mwambembe's See the Able, Not the Label shares Doree Ndipila's story about her knitting, crocheting and sewing business that, 'helps me support my family.' This includes sending her kids to school. And so the chances and choices continue.

A different slant on education comes from Regina Stefano, a vision impaired teacher in a mainstream school, who draws on her students to help her teach, for example, by writing on the blackboard. Proud of having gone through primary, secondary and teacher education, Regina urges parents of children with disability to provide opportunity for their kids. (I Am The Professional Teacher by Angella Khumbanyiwa.)

The same sentiment can be seen in the students themselves. In Deus Chirwa's The Born and Aspirant Pastor, subject Davie Banda, aged 14, says, 'I plead with parents of children with disability to send their children to school, because not doing so is violating their right to an education.'

Other students we learn about, include Jelony, who, since attending school has learnt to talk, jump and draw cartoons. (Keep Calm and Embrace the Difference by Zuze Matoliro.) In Comedian Translator by Mathews Kumwenda, two young comedians simultaneously entertain and educate school children about protecting themselves from HIV and Aids, ending with the wise words, 'Life can't be bought like dried fish at the market'. Should Not Be A Barrier also carries similar themes.

There's also a suite of films about men with disability running their own businesses. In one such film, The Repairer & Barber, by Mabvuto Kwalakwala, the barber and phone repairer tells us, 'My customers are my bosses.'

In I Do As You Do, author Thokozani W Kantute highlights the vibrant life of Machila, a shoe and umbrella repairer, who also keeps goats and poultry and has qualifications in accounting. He says that all his work, 'makes my family feel secure.'

Lastly, there's a motorbike mechanic with one arm who set up his own business ten years ago, because he lost his job due to his colleagues' jealousy of his hard-working attitude. His own attitude is summarized thus, 'Hard things are put in our way, not to stop us, but to encourage our courage and strength.' View this wisdom first hand in The Spectacle Hand by Chisomo Livason.

There will be a FOA Malawi screening November 3rd in Blantyre, For tickets and full details please email [email protected]