By Hannah Hillebrand
In his signature burnt orange jacket, Maston stands at the chalkboard in front of nine of the ten students who are the youth club from Tukombo Secondary School. The early morning sunlight filters through the stone windows of the classroom at Chiwana Primary School where we meet; the school at which these students completed their primary education some four years ago. They recently finished their Form 4 exams, and with their school holiday time, they have begun to work together as a club.
Led by Nephius Banda, a bright young woman of 20 years, the group’s goal is to grow and sell vegetables, and eventually chickens and pigs. In addition, they want to help their primary school alma mater with a fruit tree planting project, which will provide food for the primary school students.
They listen attentively as Maston encourages them to be a positive influence on their community; to work hard and maintain good group communication; to be good role models to other youth; to hold each other accountable. His energy and enthusiasm are inspiring.
Today he is covering two topics: strategies for business success and how to control pests in their two-week-old vegetable garden. “Research + Plan + Implementation + Monitoring + Evaluation = Success”, he tells them as he scribbles various numbers, equations, and drawings on the chalk board. He methodically covers each step in the process, sharing stories of successes and failures from the other clubs he coaches. He then covers natural pesticides and assigns the group the task of treating their newly planted garden with Telphrozia and Chilis. He will return to check on their progress next week.
By the end of an hour, he’s covered in chalk dust – there’s no eraser in here – but he’s unphased and still smiling. As we leave the classroom and step into the now intense mid-morning sunlight, the group enthusiastically poses for a few photos with Maston. They’re chatting amongst themselves; excited about the potential and encouraged by Maston’s education and guidance.