Story by Godfrey Kalamula, Tetra Tech

Sixteen-year-old Maria Ofesi, from Gombe Village in Malawi’s Thyolo District, is a bright, ambitious girl who dreams of becoming a nurse. Maria was overjoyed when selected to attend Thekerani Community Day Secondary School (CDSS). However, she soon learned that her new school was 20 kilometers away from her village – too unsafe for a young girl to walk daily. Maria began school at Thekerani CDSS on a self-boarding basis, but her parents struggled financially and were unable to provide boarding and school fees following the first term. As a result, Maria dropped out of school, shattering her dreams of becoming a nurse.

I have always wanted to be a nurse and so dropping out of school was like shutting the door that would lead me to this goal,” recalled Maria.

Maria's dream was revived when USAID teamed up with the U.S President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to build a brand-new secondary under the Secondary Education Expansion for Development (SEED) project. When Katole CDSS opened its doors in in Maria's village in January 2023 with an initial enrolment of 43 students, 24 boys and 19 girls, one of the first students was Maria. 

When Katole CDSS opened its doors in January 2023, I approached the Head Teacher and shared with him my situation and desire to return to school. The Head Teacher advised me that I should go to Thyolo District Education Office and request for a transfer from Thekerani CDSS to Katole CDSS. I followed the shared advice and my request for transfer was approved and this is how I found myself back in class. My hopes of becoming a nurse rekindled,” Maria said smiling.

Katole CDSS is equipped with modern facilities, spacious classrooms, and single-student desks. Malawi's Ministry of Education has provided a team of passionate and dedicated teachers who are nurturing the young minds. 

“Maria is one of the most promising students at my school," said James Zipangani, Head Teacher at Katole CDSS. "Her commitment in her studies is unmatched. It therefore did not come as a surprise that Maria came second out of 43 students during the the end of second term examinations.”  

Through the SEED project, USAID has added 96 classrooms in 30 existing urban secondary schools, and is building 89 new secondary schools in rural areas. These schools will create 27,000 places for students like Maria every year.


A teenage student sits at a desk in a full classroom, reading a book.
Maria Ofesi reads a story from an English book during an English lesson at Katole Community Day Secondary School in Thyolo, Malawi.
Photo by Godfrey Kalamula, Tetra Tech
Malawi Stories