The Polytechnic, a constituent college of the University of Malawi (UNIMA) has appointed Caroline Bwanali as a dean of the faculty of education and media studies. In fact, she is the first Muslim woman to occupy that position.
Bwanali who joined the Polytechnic in 2001 said she was so grateful to Almighty God for being elected on that position.
“I am really thankful to Almighty Allah for granting me this glorious opportunity. I have also to thank those who have trusted me to give this challenging position,” she said.
Polytechnic has three female deans compared to the past where only males occupied those positions. As a dean, Bwanali is tasked to perform several activities for the department including Continuing Education Centre (CEC).
“I am here to coordinate activities taking place in my faculty; one of them is to train students and also to research and get involved in consultancy and community outreach,” she explained.
Apart from becoming the first Muslim woman dean, Bwanali was also the first Hijab-wearing woman to be a faculty representative at Senate in the history of University of Malawi.
“I was the head of language and communication department for two terms, thus about four years. And I retired in 2009 after being contented with what I achieved during my tenure in office. But just barely three months when I thought I would rest a little bit from managerial positions, I was elected to represent the faculty on the Senate – the position that I held for four years,” she narrated.
Asked how does she feel as a Muslim woman to be one of the top decision makers at Polytechnic, Bwanali did not hold her thrill and had this to say:
“I can proudly say that so far I have managed to convince Unima Council to shift the University entrance examinations to Thursday because in the past, the examinations were normally administered on Friday. I told them that it was iniquitous for Muslims who also write the examinations since they observe Jumuah Prayers on the day,” she said, adding that this is an avenue of giving another side of the story in as far as Islam is concerned since some feel like Muslims more especially women cannot rise to positions like this one.
Bwanali who hails from Ulongwe in the Traditional Authority (T/A) Kalembo, Balaka also took this chance to bemoan the number of Muslim students as well as tutors in the colleges. She said there are only four Muslim lecturers at Polytechnic which to her, is not a good turn up but she said she is trying her best to make sure that the number is increased.
“As of now we are working hard to make sure that the number of Muslims attaining education at Polytechnic and other colleges is increasing and that the Muslim students currently enrolled at the colleges should not be weeded or withdrawn from their courses,” she said.
She also pleaded with the Islamic organisations in the country to be preparing and supporting students in order to get them selected to the University.
“Though these organisations need to be recommended for their role in offering scholarships to students to attain tertiary education abroad, but let me ask them to consider preparing the students for UNIMA since it is almost free to learn at University because government is providing loans for students.
Currently, Bwanali and her colleagues have introduced an initiative aimed at encouraging Muslim girls in attaining higher education. She said the initiative also involves meeting with mothers since they pray a vital role in one’s life.
“If a mother makes a right choice for her daughter, life can be different. Girls need to be encouraged to work hard at school, have objectives and be focused. Everyone has a potential to prosper but it needs to sit and look deep inside oneself,” she said.
Bwanali said Almighty Allah created girls as expensive and as such girls should stand for what Allah has given them by abstaining from wrong things. She therefore said there is need to make right decision as “we can fall down but what matters most is how we rise from that fall.”
Bwanali obtained her Bachelor degree in Language and Literature at Ghazila University before her Masters degree in Turkey. She attended her Secondary school education at St Mary’s in Zomba.