‘I wish I could turn back the clock’

Read article on “I wish I could turn back the clock” at mywage.org. Irene Kagwa made a mistake during her secondary school days by falling pregnant which shattered her dreams. But now she wants to mend her life.

By Madalitso Kateta


Being the first-born in a family that later had five children, Irene Kagwa received a great deal of attention from her parents. They had great plans for her future.

Now working as a Telephone Bureau Attendant and Phone Credit Vendor at Victoria Avenue in the heart of the city of Blantyre, Irene is one of many Malawian young girls trying to reorganise their lives after having dropped out of school as a result of premarital pregnancy.

At 23 Irene says she now spares time to advise other young girls currently pursuing their education, so that they do not make the same mistake she did.

When she started her primary education at Catholic Institute in 1992, Irene’s big dream was to one day be walking the corridors of one of the biggest hospitals in Malawi - Queen Elizabeth - as a nurse.

“As a young girl I had always dreamed of becoming a nurse upon completion of my education. I had always admired the nurses at the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital and I wanted to be like them, “she recalls. 

Irene however, said her life ambitions were shattered while she was in Form Two at Namiwawa Community Day Secondary School. She found herself in a love affair, influenced by peer pressure, and started to lose her academic focus.

“It was while I was in my second class at secondary school that I started to feel I didn’t need education to succeed in life. I had made friends with some girls that were slightly older than me. They told me that for a girl life would always be easy with or without education, as one would one day get married to a man who would take care of all monetary and social needs, “she said.

She later faced a harsh reality when the man she loved made her pregnant, and then told her that he already had a wife.

“When I became pregnant my partner told me he had a wife and could not marry me. I was so heartbroken, but there was nothing I could do at that point other than pack my books and wait for my child,” she said.

Irene, who now depends on the earnings she gets as a Pay Phone Attendant to take care of her needs and those of her six-year-old child, said that her life was hard as she struggled to make ends meet.

“I am able to take care of some of my needs and that of my child with the little I get from this job. But the challenges I face working as a Bureau Operator are just too many,” she said.

“I get K4,500 a month. However sometimes I can go home with K2, 500, when I do not hit the target which my boss wants me to reach every month,” she said.

She said despite having done badly with her education, she still has great plans for her daughter who she said she would like to see fulfilling her shattered dream.

“I would not like to see my daughter repeating the mistakes I made in my school life. I am already sending her to a private primary school with the little I get so that she can excel in her studies and be independent in her life,” said Irene.

The young woman also said that she was privately studying for her Junior Certificate and that she had hopes of taking her studies further to the Malawi School Certificate of Education.

“My future plans are to establish my own phone operation service and this can be achieved if I further my education, so that I can effectively manage the business,” said Irene.

She added that, as a single parent she might one day still want to marry, but she was now very careful in this area.