My father took me out of school but I have forgiven him because he knew no better

Edina Bonzo is a 64-year-old granny living in a village deep in the Mangochi region in Malawi. She spoke to The Daily Vox about fasting during Ramadan, school and why material wealth should come second in life.

I was born on 6th July 1951. I only look like this today because God loves me.

I started fasting when I was a little girl, when I used to go to madrassa and school. It’s important to fast, because it is one of the fundamentals of the religion. It is also important because if a child is God-fearing or follows the teaching of Quran, then generally they are well behaved. And they are quite lucky in life. During this holy month, I usually have a glass of water before sunrise and then have porridge, without sugar, when we open the fast. And then later, nsima (maize). Of course I feel hungry during the day, but we persevere. It’s what we must do for God. I can’t see God, but I can feel his power.

I went to school. It was a long time ago. And I had gone up to standard eight. In those days, standard eight was powerful. Not like today.

My father was living in Zambia at the time and we didn’t have enough fees for school and I had to leave school. I asked my father to let me come to Zambia and continue my schooling, but he refused. He said I would end up doing all the wrong things, like becoming a sex worker in Zambia. I complained but he refused.

He was wrong. But today I forgive him because he didn’t know what he was talking about.

School is very important because it exposes you to the world. You get to understand the world you are living in. In fact, a lot of what I know is from school.

In this age, it is so important for a girl to go to school, because it opens so many more opportunities than someone else who hasn’t gone to school. Education is important for everyone.

I think many parents want to send their children to school. But there are issues that make it hard. There are many young girls who fall pregnant when they are very young. This makes me very sad. And a lot of it happens because of peer pressure.

Often, a girl will have a boyfriend who went to South Africa, and he will send her a gift, like a phone, and then other girls feel that if they have a man, they too would feel secure.

At the end of the day, these girls fall pregnant and the fathers are nowhere to be found.

I got married to a rich man a long time ago. We had a good life. We had a car, cattle, and maize mills. He died on 12 August 1995. The next day he was buried. His family took all of those belongings away and I was left with nothing. I didn’t get married again.

Wealth is important, but what is really important is for someone to have a spiritual wealth where you are on good terms with God. We don’t know what comes next, but the holy book is very clear that there is more happiness and peace at the end of this life.

Wealth in this world should be second, because you can be happy in this life without too much. People think they know what they are doing and where they are headed, but it’s all so temporary. The most important thing I have learnt in life is that if you well behaved, you escape from trouble. You should live the life that God has prepared us for.