He was not sure if he indeed had heard properly the percentage of those had passed.
In the news, Deputy Minister of Education Nancy Chaola Mdoko was heard saying a total of 154 132 candidates sat for the examinations and out of this 83 846 passed, representing an overall pass rate of 54.40 percent.
Recalling his time at Dedza Secondary School, he didn’t expect to fail.
He anticipated not to score more than 10 points.
But a disturbing figure was also being announced on the radio. It was said that about 70 000 candidates had failed the just released examinations.
But solace came when he heard that Dedza Secondary School, a Ministry of Education national school, was the only government school in the top 10 of best performing schools.
He waited anxiously for white smoke from Chapel’s chimney as they usually call it.
A day later when he followed up, he could not believe what his head teacher, Ramsay Stephano, told him.
He had scooped 6 points!
He and his friend, Don Chikopa, and a girl from St Mary Secondary School are the only students that managed to get such a prestigious grade.
He could not describe his excitement at the news. He knelt down and thanked God for what he describes as grace.
He calls it grace because of where he is coming from.
This was a grace not only for him and his school, but also his family in Kaoche Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Maliri in Lilongwe.
His is an achievement worth celebrating, considering the challenges he experienced to reach this far.
His success did not just come on a silver platter.
Obstacles have been overcome and success is finally here to see the spoils of his four-year academic adventure in secondary school.
Joseph, who is currently moulding bricks at his home village to source money to buy a smartphone and a laptop computer, says the journey to the top was not easy.
He says he needs these gadgets to keep updated with current events regarding university selection and also use them in his university education in future.
Joseph recalls spending sleepless nights with his classmates through a club they called Club 16.
“This success that we are all celebrating today has come from hard work and dedication. We formed a group that worked together and helped each other. It is worth noting that the two six points out of the three the country is celebrating have come from that group. Hard work and working together really pays,” says the smiling Joseph.
He says he wants to do Bachelor’s Degree in Medicine and Surgery at Kamuzu University of Health Sciences
So, it was that ambition to study medicine that spurred him to work harder. It was the only way of achieving that dream.
His father, Mathias Katole, a bricklayer, says life has not been easy.
He recalls sending Joseph to his uncle in Dowa because he could not make ends meet and help him with his primary school education at the same time.
It is at Dowa 1 Primary School that Joseph got selected to pursue further education at Dedza Government Secondary School.
He says to source K19, 000 school fees per term for Joseph was a tall order and gave him sleepless nights.
“I really struggled to raise fees, especially in Form 1. I do not have a permanent job. I usually rely on piece works to make ends meet. Such was life until Press Trust came to assist us in footing the school fees,” says Katole.
Her mother, Josephine Katole, who was all smiles when we met her, could not believe her son was on top with six points
She recalls giving him K1000 pocket money to cater for a whole term in 2019.
She laughs off and thanks God for what she says is grace.
Headteacher Stephano has attributed success in the examinations to discipline, hard work and provision of awards to best students and teachers by the school’s alumni.
Stephano says the awards motivate students and teachers to work extra hard.
He also says students are encouraged to study in groups twice a week and this is paying dividends.
Meanwhile, Director of Secondary Education in the Ministry of Education Dr Florida Banda says the system at Dedza is worth emulating and a perfect example of how discipline can bear fruits.
She says the ministry is trying to help, especially Community Day Secondary Schools, on how best they can turn around the tables.
The story of Joseph is inspiring, especially in rural areas where the dropout rate is always high.