SUNDAY PROFILE witH JIMMY CHIBUYE, NDANGWA MWITTAH, Kalomo
EMILY Mwaanga refused to join the ranks of the so-called ‘retired and tired citizens’ after she left her government job as a teacher eight years ago.
Mrs Mwaanga did not want to be reduced to a panhandler after working for over 29 years as a teacher instead, she decided to turn one of her family houses into a ‘goldmine’ by making it a successful private school.
Today, she is an employer and unbelievably, former Mwaata Secondary School (then Mwaata Basic School) headteacher whom she served under is among her staff.
Mrs Mwaanga was born in Kabwe in 1954 and her father, a teacher also, stopped work and went back to Kalomo, his home town to establish his own businesses.
She hails from Sikweya village, Chief Sipatunyana, about 32 kilometres from Kalomo town.
Mrs Mwaanga started her primary education at then Mwaata Primary School and Green Acres.
She moved to Namwianga Mission for her junior secondary before her older brother facilitated for her transfer to Choma Secondary School where she completed her secondary education.
After completing secondary education, Mrs Mwaanga found her love in veterinary officer cum businessman, John Mwaanga whom she married in 1971 and the following year she had her first child.
Her name is Miyanda, a nurse and her second child is named Joe, a secondary school teacher. She has eight grandchildren.
Unfortunately, her husband died in 1992.
Five years after her wedding, Mrs Mwaanga proceeded to Mufulira Teachers’ Training College and graduated in 1978 and got posted to Kalomo Primary School where she dedicated her teaching services for 14 years before being transferred to Mwaata Basic School, also in Kalomo. She became senior teacher in 1980.
In 2004, she was transferred to Kalomo Central School on promotion as deputy headteacher where she worked until her retirement in 2009.
It was after retiring from the government that Mrs Mwaanga came up with the idea of setting up a school.
At that time, a government department was renting the house.
“We used to earn quite a lot from rentals before money stopped coming direct from Government. But when it reverted to paying through pay slips, we then decided to rethink the strategy,” she says.
That, coupled with her retirement and desire to keep going, is what gave birth to the school.
Her son Joe wanted her to open a guest house but she rejected the idea because of the moral aspects involved in lodges.
According to her, in 2010, Kalomo only had one private school and she used to admire how the institution was managed.
Emis Private School was opened on May 10, 2010, with an initial number of about 30 pupils for both preschool and primary.
Since then, she has never looked back because her school, which is co-directed by her son Joe, has grown with enrolment up to grade seven and a total 11 teachers.
“I was going to be a burden to my children if I had allowed myself be tired and retired. Being old is not the end of life because life only ends when God calls you,” she says.
Plans are underway to introduce the first grade eight class at the centrally-located school.
Indeed, to that effect, Mrs Mwaanga and her family has gone on to establish a name of their own in the small town of Kalomo.
It has not been all as rosy for Mrs Mwaanga – especially now that the market is saturated.
“It used to be great when we just started but now, with these economic challenges everyone keeps complaining about, money is hard to come by,” she says before adding: “We rely on parents for income and also for our staff remunerations.”
Mrs Mwaanga says her school is up-to-date with all the statutory requirements.
“We even have a very good working relationship with Government and the District Education Board Secretary (DEBS) and we are even a member of the Kalomo private schools association. Our books are up-to-date,” she says.
Just like many other private schools, Emis is equally not immune to teacher retention.
Mrs Mwaanga says, she has lost ‘good’ teachers to Government, because she cannot match up with the salaries. But she doesn’t regret it because, to her, she is still serving her country diligently by giving young teachers hope and something to look up to as they wait for government postings.
“Many of them prefer Government. That’s why we have had many teachers come and go here. But at least, they will be here and earn a little something to keep them going. We would still be proud that they started their teaching careers here. At least, we will have given them that opportunity here, much as it could be a hassle at times,” she says.
Make no mistake, Mrs Mwaanga distastes laziness too.
“My slogan is that I hire and fire. I am a perfectionist who only wants the best for the school,” she says.
Other than to God, Mrs Mwaanga says the key to a successful business is adequate planning and perseverance.
“If you don’t plan well, you can even close the school. It can be frustrating sometimes because even getting a loan is not an easy thing these days,” she says.
Mrs Mwaanga adds: “Sometimes, we have parents who when they fail to pay fees for their children, they pull them out and run away with our monies. We don’t even follow them up. It is not easy, but with perseverance, we have managed to hold on and have kept growing.”
Mrs Mwaanga whose favourite Bible quotes atre Psalm 23 and John 3:16 advises fellow retirees not to be deadweights for as long their brains remain functional.
“Once you start planning something, never turn back. You can be retired but that shouldn’t be the end of everything. Retired should just be a state of mind. Challenges are there but we have to be firm and remain focused. Getting old is not a crime. For as long as the brain is still functioning, I refuse to be dormant,” she says.
At her home, Mrs Mwaanga takes care of grandchildren other extended members of the extended family.
“We can afford to have three meals a day despite me being a retiree,” she says.