AFTER four years of a fruitless job-hunt, 30-year-old University of Zambia graduate Bright Chaanga has resorted to selling tomatoes on the streets of Lusaka for survival.
Chaanga graduated in 2017 with a merit in Special Education, making him one of the best graduates of his intake. He is now a familiar face on Lusaka’s Cairo Road, hawking neatly packed tomatoes and onions, targeting customers crawling in the late afternoon and evening traffic. Although Bright is ready to take up any job that will come his way, for immediate survival, his hawking business is what is keeping him busy.
Growing up orphaned, Chaanga always believed that education would somehow lift him out of the tough life he endured throughout his childhood in Monze district of Southern Province where he was born and bred. However, he is yet to live his dream.
Son of a charcoal-burner and a peasant farming mother, Chaanga is one of the first set of twins born to his parents who died while he was in primary school, and only to be raised by his aunt along with three other siblings.
After making it to Grade 10, Chaanga moved to Monze Boarding School where an NGO called Handwealth sponsored the rest of his secondary education.
“After, I completed my grade 12, I went back to the village to live with my family. Looking at the village life being monotonous, I told myself that I cannot continue living in the village since I had completed school. I needed to go somewhere and find something to do,” he explains.
In June 2011, Bright headed to Lusaka in search of opportunities. On arrival, he spent two days looking for a relative whom he eventually located in Barlastone. Later he managed to land himself a first job in 2012.
“A friend who was a barberman in the area took me to Champion Milling where I was given a piece work to load bags of mealie-meal on a truck. We were five of us that day and we had to load 1,200 bags of mealie-meal on a truck and I was paid K5.00. On the same day, I went to Zambia Breweries, also offloading was K5.00; I worked from morning up to 22:00 hours for K10.00,” Chaanga narrates.
Despite the back-breaking meagre paying job, Chaanga continued working for 15 days and managed to raise the targeted K150.00 needed to buy the University of Zambia application form.
“I didn’t even know where UNZA was. As a small boy, I had passion that I needed to go to the University of Zambia at all costs,” he says.
Chaanga explains that his uncle advised him against using the money to apply for admission at UNZA but to buy eggs and resell them as boiled in the streets and he would make better returns. He says his uncle was not financially stable, but his desire to get an education was too strong to let go. Two days later, he went ahead on a long walk from Barlastone to the University of Zambia to buy the application form, which he did and later returned home on foot with the form.
His uncle was of the view that bursaries are for the: “People who come from influential families. Who is going to speak for you?”
Chaanga submitted the application and three months later, his former schoolmate called to inform him that he had been selected in the school of education.
“From there I went to the village to organise the needed documents of my late parents, but my father died in the village where there were no death certificates issued. So, there was no documents to support my bursary application,” he explains.
But the headman helped him with recommendation and the Monze Hospital helped him by writing a letter to confirm that he was indeed an orphan.
“I also went to Monze Boarding School, the head teacher Mrs. Moyo, wrote a recommendation letter and indicated that: ‘this child was being sponsored by an organisation from Sweden’. I needed help to study at UNZA,” Chaanga explains passionately.
“By God’s grace, when I went to the Bursaries Committee on the last day of submission, it was even closed because I didn’t even know where the Bursary Committee offices were. But I was later helped by some good Samaritans I met at Evelyn Hone College. I was taken there and I was able to submit the application.”
Three months later, while at Soweto market, Chaanga received news that his name was one of those placed on 100 per cent bursary, and published in the Zambia Daily Mail newspaper.
“I was very excited, I was elated because I was not expecting my name to be found in the newspaper. It was really something great to experience,” he relates.
Later, Chaanga walked from Barlastone to the Bursaries Committee offices in Longacres to check for his name.
“Out of excitement, I phoned and text a lot of people. Some people who knew me were crying to hear the news. When I arrived and found my name on the notice board, I fell down because I was very excited,” he explains.
That is how Bright’s UNZA journey, which started in 2013, later saw him graduate with a degree in Special Education in 2017. However, he has not been able to find a job.
He says he has remained hopeful that one day God will open a door for him.
“I have applied in so many organisations, schools and in government. The last teacher’s recruitment by government, I think it provided a lot of stringent conditions which would not favour some of us who graduated in 2017 or later,” he says.
“I can’t just stay home and wait; I have a family to take care of and I think choosing what to do basing on my qualification can starve my family. So, I am in the streets for survival. But any help is welcome, i can be reached on 0975842160.”