1:00 P.M. EST April 28, 2010 | MEMPHIS, Tenn. (UMNS)
Mukanyanga Muzyamba walked 12 miles daily to attend secondary school in
Zambia. UMNS photos courtesy of the Memphis Annual (regional)
As a fourth-grader in a remote village in Zambia, Mukanyanga Muzyamba
figured her desire to become a doctor was next to impossible.
The people in Sichibeya were subsistence farmers, and their only school
ended at the fourth grade. The school serving children beyond the fourth
grade was six miles away.
Clinging to her hope of becoming a physician and buoyed by a strong
faith in God, 10-year-old Muka chose to make the daily 12-mile
round-trip walk on a footpath winding through the bush to attend fifth
For the next few years, Muka had to rise by 4 a.m. to finish her chores
before starting her long trek to school.
Muka tried to finish her work by 5 a.m. in order to arrive at school
when classes started at 8 a.m. Some days, by the time she finished her
work, she had to run, rather than walk, in order to avoid being punished
for tardiness. When the school day ended at 4 p.m., Muka would begin
the long walk back, arriving home about 7 p.m., giving her nine hours to
eat, bathe and sleep before doing it all over again.
Despite this exhausting schedule, the intellectually gifted Muka
excelled in school.
Seventh grade is a pivotal year for Zambian students. Only students
scoring in the top 20 percent of a national standardized test are
allowed to continue to eighth grade. Muka was the only student from her
village allowed to continue her schooling.
She went on to high school where she again passed a nationwide test that
eliminated 50 percent of the 11th graders, and she graduated with top
Mukanyanga Muzyamba strives to improve Zambian health care.
Memphis church helps
About this time, Mullins United Methodist Church in Memphis was adding
classrooms to the school in Sichibeya. After learning of Muka’s
achievements and dreams, they agreed to provide financial support to
help her attend college.
The options for higher education in Zambia are limited; the number of
qualified applicants vastly outstrips the enrollment capacity of the
nation’s few universities, causing a wait time of about two years before
new high school graduates are admitted.
When Muka was finally able to begin classes at the University of Zambia,
she was disappointed to learn there was no opening for pre-med
students; the only opening available was in the teacher education
Her sponsors at the Memphis church urged her to start classes at the
Zambia school while she looked for another college that offered a
pre-med major. Unfortunately, University of Zambia faculty went on
strike the week before final exams to protest the government’s failure
to pay them what was promised in their contracts.
Since students could not complete their courses and receive their
credits without their final exams, Muka and the rest of the students
were left in limbo while the strike dragged on for weeks.
Meanwhile, God opened another door. A relative of Muka’s with friends in
The United Methodist Church learned about Africa University and urged
her to apply to the Zimbabwe school. She was accepted and started
classes in August 2007.
Since Africa University does not have a medical program, Muka chose the
next closest course of study available. She will graduate this June with
a bachelor’s degree in health services management.
“My life from childhood has not been easy, full of struggles, but I
thank God that through these struggles I have been made strong in my
faith,” Muka said. “The purpose of sharing my faith with others is to
encourage those who are discouraged or hopeless, due to financial and
social instabilities, that there is a God who does more than we can ever
ask or imagine, as long as we remain faithful to him.
Muka says she will use her training in health services management to
help provide quality health care.
“My prayer is to make a difference in my country by ensuring that health
resources are managed effectively and efficiently.”
After her graduation from Africa University, Mukanyanga hopes to attend
graduate school at the University of Memphis, and someday she would like
to run her own medical center.
She told her Memphis sponsors that a master’s degree in public health in
a developed country would give her “strategies for improving the system
in my own country.”
The Memphis church is currently seeking sponsors who will enable Muka to
complete a master’s degree in America.
For somebody who walked 12 miles a day to finish elementary school,
crossing an ocean to finish her college education seems a fitting last
step in a long journey of faith and hard work.
*Gray is a member of Mullins United Methodist Church, which sponsors
News media contact: Barbara Dunlap-Berg, Nashville, Tenn., (615)
742-5489 or email@example.com.