The Beginning of Xel-Xeeli in Malawi
Xel-Xeeli has brought together 10 Malawian high school juniors (form 3) to support one of their fellow classmates in the most profound way. The Xel-Xeeli Malawi has been working diligently to create a wheelchair for one of their fellow underclassmen. Chipasula Secondary School is one of the best high schools in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. Naturally everyone wants to get into the school.
One Chipasula student, a freshman (form 1) chose Chipasula, and has been fighting for education despite his situation. This student is disabled; forced to walk on his hands and knees. But he was admitted to Chipasula and he wanted to go there, even though it was more than 10km away from his home. People instructed him to go to another school, but he said, “Chipasula is the only one for me”. Trying to be accepted onto public transport is a daily struggle because of the stigma of a wheelchair. The school community, including the group of juniors, raised money to buy a bicycle so that someone could take him to school. But even this generosity has difficulties, because the student must still find his way back home at the end of the day and sometimes, the person who transports him doesn’t come. To cut to the root of the problem, his parents have rejected him, and he lives with his aunt.
Wakisa Mwakatika, one of the juniors going to Chipasula, was connected to Joel Chimwemwe Nitz, a University of Wisconsin-Madison biomedical engineer student, during the summer of 2022. Joel had just been connected with the founder of Xel-Xeeli Alassane Jamb that same summer, and the founder gave electronics kits and laptops to take to Malawi during Joel’s internship. Joel met with Wakisa.
On the weekend for 2-3 hours for many weeks doing simple Arduino electronics projects and learning how to code in Scratch.
Joel wanted to start a Xel-Xeeli club in Malawi, so asked Waki to invite his friends to come during the weekends. One weekend 3 students came. The next 2, and the next 5, and the next 10. The students were excited by the knowledge, and each one had hopes of a future career in STEM.
Alassane encouraged the new club in Xel-Xeeli to dedicate themselves to a project. So, the students brainstormed, and a compassionate member, Steve Mituka put forward a project that inspired everyone. He suggested that we make a motorized wheelchair, so that the disabled freshman could travel to school on their own, so that the freshman could even travel other places on their own. The project brought everyone in the group closer together with the end goal in mind. Joel returned to the USA, but Maurice Mlozi, an up and rising Malawian innovator has taken the lead of the group, and now guides the students through the process of building a motorized wheelchair, teaching them the necessary skills. The project is underway, and everyone who hears about it gives their full support.