Lindsay Katchika-Jere: Author, world literacy ambassador. By Brenda Buliyani

Image taken from The Nation

At 21 years old, Lindsay Katchika-Jere already has a book to her name — The Missing Meteorite — a children’s book.

This is the first one under the Adventures of Thoko series.

The young woman wrote The Missing Meteorite hoping that through the books, Malawian children can thrive in a reading culture.

“The ability to read and write is a human right, therefore, every child deserves a book — books that are written by Malawians; books that tell stories of our beautiful and rich country.

“The book challenges children to learn new words. I believe instilling a reading culture in children is very important,” she says.

Lindsay further notes that without literacy, it is hard for communities to participate in developmental activities.

Adventures of Thoko is also a picture book with illustrations throughout.

This means that the book is friendly to even children with learning difficulties as every child can respond to images even long before they can read.

The main character in the Adventures of Thoko is Thoko who represents both the girl who finds it easy to speak English and the girl who has difficulties accessing equal and quality education.

She represents the Malawian girl and reminds the younger generation that they can be brave and have the power to change the world.

In The Missing Meteorite, readers will learn of Thoko daring to be strong and powerful.

The book also portrays results derived from when children and the community work together to address crime, corruption and many other vices.

Her time of working as an intern at the Chichiri Museum in Blantyre inspired Lindsay to write the book.

While at the museum, she learned about the 92 kilogmammes meteorite that fell in Machinga in 1981. It is one of the largest meteorites ever discovered in the world and it is available at the museum.

Reading through the book, one would come across a girl whose dream is to visit the museum just to see the meteorite.

Her love for writing and the desire to see children learning to read has earned her the title World Literacy Ambassador conferred by the World Literacy Foundation.

As the Covid-19 pandemic raged on, with schools closed across the country, she established a free book club, teaching children to read and write.

She started a campaign called; “eradicating illiteracy through creative arts.”

She partnered with young artists from Zeru Youth Club who volunteered to teach arts in the book clubs.

“In no time, we were getting over 30 children in the club. But because of the Covid-19 restrictions, we had to lower the numbers. Later I helped Zeru Youth Club establish their own book club in their community,” she explains.

Additionally, in July 2020, she established a live social media channel — Lindflix Youth network — which is a platform for young people around the world to engage in development issues.

“The platform has so far reached about 2 000 youth with guests from more than eight countries. I use the platform to advocate for education equality because my sister could not make it to college since the education system in Malawi does not offer quality education for children with special needs,” she says.

Lindsay was born with a twin sister Lindalisa at Dedza Central Hospital on May 15 1999.

Their parents divorced when they were six and she was raised by her grandmother until the age of nine.

Her grandmother, who was a headmistress at Chichiri Primary School in Blantyre encouraged her to read; such that at eight years old Lindsay, would read three books a day.

Later, the book lover moved to Lilongwe to live with her mother Pirira Ndaferankhande where she started school at Lilongwe Pentecostal Christian School.

As a child, Lindsay says she faced a lot of bullying and lost the feeling of self worth.

She explains: “I spent most times alone since my sister’s situation, having been born with special needs, was a barrier in our relationship. As such, writing became my companion at the age of seven.”

In the times that she spent alone, she would imagine things and write them down.

She fell in love with writing that one day her mother snatched her writing materials and tore them because she thought it was a destraction to her studies.

After primary school, she was selected to Bwaila Secondary School, but instead she went to Our Lady of Wisdom in Blantyre.

At 11 years, she printed her first book with the help of her uncle, but kept it to herself.

A year later, she shifted her interest to drawing and fashion as she had no one to look up to as a writer. Still, she continually felt the urge to write.

“I started writing stories that my friends enjoyed reading. I became a human library because people would pass my writings around to each other. The audience was just so much that people offered to help me with editing.

I remember once my teacher snatched one of the books from a student because she was reading it during classes. Other students started to write as well, but people preferred my stories,” she recalls.

After sitting the Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE), she applied to the African Bible College (ABC).

Her mother encouraged her to take a course in communications because of her creative skills; but being an introvert and a shy girl, they were not sure if she would excel in radio or television.

While pursuing her degree studies at ABC, she also worked as a presenter on Radio ABC.

She was determined to graduate with a distinction, so she spent most of her time studying and completing her assignments.

Throughout college, she was on the Dean’s list and she later graduated with a distinction.

While in college, where she was the youngest in a class of nearly 80 students, she also began to enjoy speaking in public and making presentations.

However, her debut public speaking was at 14 years old when she was invited to motivate single-parent-raised children at a conference organised by Hope Counselling Centre.

“From the feedback I got, I was encouraged and wanted to speak more,” she says.

Early this year, she was selected by Network for Youth Development (NfYD) to participate in an international exchange programme organised by the Nowergian Embassy for Exchange Cooperation (Norec) which saw her getting on a plane for the first time, traveling to Uganda for a youth camp.

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