In 2016, Brave Chibaka was just 14 years old when he enrolled at the University of Namibia's José Eduardo Dos Santos Campus towards an honour's degree in civil engineering.
The wonder kid's academic exploits have now earned him the sought-after degree, following his graduation last month, becoming the youngest ever Unam graduate, aged 20. "We are proud to announce that Brave was the youngest to be enrolled at Unam and the youngest to graduate at our institution so far," Unam's marketing officer Simon Namesho said yesterday. Born in Blantyre, Malawi, Chibaka started school at the age of four at Walani Private School - and at the age of 10, he gained admission to a boarding school - St John Catholic Secondary School - where he completed grades 9-12.
"I skipped grade 7-8 because, in Malawi, private primary schools are from grade 1 to grade 6. In grade 6, learners write grade 8 exams and they have to proceed to grade 9 till 14; the public system has grades 1-8 then 9-12 for secondary school. So, I went to private school till grade 6, then I moved to a government school, where I just continued to grade 9," he narrated.
Although he always knew he picked up things faster than other pupils, Chibaka described his childhood as "just normal" and he never considered himself "gifted". "I did not find anything wrong with my age until I came to Namibia.
People on the campus will literally stop and stare; some will even ask how I made it to university at such age," Chibaka said.
Describing his experience of studying at Unam, Chibaka said: "The first two years at Unam were quite challenging because people would always think I am too young, while some would question my capabilities.
I also struggled with pre-engineering; however, I pulled it off with good grades. Other than that, I enjoyed my time at Unam; I had the best of lecturers and people were so friendly to me".
When asked about what inspired him to study in Namibia, Chibaka said, "My father was a civil engineer in Namibia and he asked me to join him". Despite his protestations, a look at Chibaka's achievements at university shows he was not an average student.
In 2017, Chibaka won a student competition for creating a website, named overall best performing student on campus in 2018 and also being recognised as a top performer in the engineering faculty last year.
"I know that this is only the beginning of my journey. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to pursue university in Namibia, and I am even more grateful for the opportunity to inspire others," he said. If you are dying to know the secret method to the young marvel's accomplishments, Chibaka said there is nothing special. "Just good time management, studying smart, and being disciplined," he said.
More than just books
Despite those achievements, Chibaka wants it understood that he is no marvel. He plays games and mostly "chill" with his friends. He loves soccer and was part of his campus' football team.
Chibaka, who is looking for a job in Malawi, aims to pursue his master's in civil engineering at an international university.
"I am still weighing my options, but I don't want to study at any local university. I want to broaden my horizons," he said. Chibaka's accomplishments have not gone unnoticed. Senior lecturer and dean of faculty of engineering at Unam Petrina Johannes described Chibaka as "one of the best students Unam has ever had".
"Brave was brilliant and a well-disciplined student. He acted more mature than any of his peers. If you don't know his age, you would not think he is that young. His final research also impressed me; at the moment, we are trying to publish it in the scientific journal," said Johannes.