From Mozambique to Marquette

By Liam Ulland-Joy, 11, with contributions by Elise Heide, 13, Annabella Martinson, 12, Anja McBride, 12, Michael Mankee, 12 and Sophia Portale, 12.

How do students in and around Marquette get to school every morning? Do they walk? Bike? Take the bus? Well, for a recent NMU student, Muassua David, getting to school when he was younger was a little more complicated than that. David, 25, attended NMU for two semesters in 2016, but was born and raised in Mozambique. At a very young age he knew education was to be taken seriously and explained that even though he didn’t have easy access to education, he knew it was important and made it a priority.

“I am from a humble family and during my childhood I grew up with my step- grandparents because my mom died when I was 1 year old.  I lived in a small community.  I started primary school and it was a pretty hard time; we didn’t have anything. I mean, we didn’t realize we were poor. We didn’t have the opportunity to see cars. We had to walk an hour and a half to school and cross a river. One of them was so big, and when it was raining and the waves were strong, sometimes we had to quit school because of the size of the river and sometimes we had to cross with a boat. We had to make a boat to cross, a boat made of wood,” David said.

The primary school that he went to only went up to fourth grade, so his father decided that he would move him to a larger village where he could attend a school that included fifth grade and up. When he started at the new school, he met a boy who changed his life.

“When I arrived in the village I had a classmate who had showed me his exercise book and it was some notes that he made in English and I asked him, ‘Where did you get this?’ and he said, ‘Young broadcast of kids radio program. We do have English classes and this is my exercise book that I use to make notes, if you want to come, you are welcome to join us.’ So from him that’s where I decided to join the radio and the radio changed my life,” David said.

The “radio” he is referring to was a Danish run youth radio program in Mozambique called Kids Radio. David joined Kids Radio in 2003, when he was 13 years old.

“It is the institution that changed my life.  We had so many programs, one of them we called in our native language…The Happiness of the Children…another one was called Radio Infantil.  It was a recorded program and someone would edit the program and then broadcast. Basically, the main goal was to deliver the message about the rights of the kids, so we did it in many rural areas of the district because there were lots of troubles: children were getting married at like 11, 12 years old, and some of them would drop out of school. We had a situation where most of them would dropout because their parents were asking them to help on the farm or to take care of their goats and other animals, and so many other problems. We were there to sensitize the community; like it’s important to make sure that your kids attend school, even though you think they should be helpful in providing for some things, for food, but make sure that kind of activity is when the kids are free.  That was the message we were trying to deliver in rural areas and kind of the rights of kids, violations and sexual abuse situations. We were there to report; we were bringing the guilty people to justice,” David said.

He stayed in the program until 2010 when it was time for him to go to college. Unfortunately, the Kids Radio program ended in 2012. When David heard the program was dead, he tried to revive it. He went to the capital and talked to several organizations that may have been able to help him.

“Every door I knocked on I didn’t succeed and I decided… I realized that I don’t have enough social capital. It matters who you are or which family do you belong to, and it matters whether the door will be opened or not. Since I was an unknown person, even with good ideas, it wouldn’t work.   I decided I needed to do something: that would be attending a really good college in the country that has reputation and that’s why I decided to do everything in my power to get into the U.S.”

He pursued a scholarship from the U.S. State Department because he strongly felt that American universities have a reputation for being the best universities in the world. The U.S. State Department scholarships were very competitive and only he and two other students from Mozambique were chosen for scholarships to study here. His goal while attending an American university was to improve his English. He came to Marquette for the winter semester of 2016 at NMU and stayed for four months. After his first semester at NMU he felt he didn’t quite reach his goal of perfecting his English. He knew he needed to improve his English proficiency in order to pass a test for another international scholarship that would help him pursue his bachelor’s degree in the United States. He chose to come back to NMU again, for the fall semester of 2016.

David returned to Mozambique in January 2017, and hopes to pass his English Proficiency Exam so he can come back to the United States and complete his bachelor’s degree, which he feels will help open doors for him in Mozambique.  He is anxious to start developing a youth journalism program for kids in Mozambique.

“Well, that is my goal. I can’t die before this happens. What I’m going to do is start a kids radio and television…not just a kids radio like it was in my time, but I need to do a kids radio and television. That’s what I am trying to do by staying in the U.S.  The main goal of my time in the U.S. is to try and achieve this goal,” David explained.

Muassua David knows what he wants and it truly is a selfless goal:  he wants to use his education to change the lives of youth in his country by creating a radio and television program that will help fuel young minds.

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