Helen and Lydia visited Zambia this July to deliver a series of conferences to schools – to teachers and students – and then to select students for the next scholarships. Here, Helen describes the work they did during the first week of their stay.
Livingstone is best known throughout the world as the home to the Victoria Falls, or Mosi-oa-Tunya as it is called locally and which literally means “The Smoke that Thunders”. What better way to start our week, therefore, than to explore the Falls and get to know better Our Moon’s scholars, Kate and Tony. Getting drenched from the spray off the Falls was bonding time, as Mailess, one of our Zambian volunteers, clung to us, worried for her life!
Our prime objective for being in Livingstone, however, was to work with Hillcrest School. We were there to help the students understand the choices that are open to them from studying at home and abroad, as well as different career options and opportunities to become entrepreneurs. Most importantly, though, we wanted them to reflect on the fact that they are immensely privileged to attend a school like Hillcrest. Many doors are open to them as a consequence. But it also bestows on the students a responsibility to work within Zambia and help to develop their communities, country and continent. Katongo, one of the A level students, summarised what he had gained from the experience:
We had a great team of presenters with us, all of whom were inspiring in their own way, but none more so than David Mtonga. David is currently studying Electronic Engineering. His dream is to bring the electronics industry to Zambia. David was once a top student at Hillcrest School, so very quickly the students adopted him as their role model. Temba said, “What really helped me most was simply knowing that other Zambians – many other Zambians – had managed to study abroad. It makes my dream seem less impossible”. One of the most touching moments of the conferences was when a group of teachers said to David that he should now see them as his colleagues and no longer as one of his superiors – this is one of the greatest accolades that can be bestowed on a young Zambian.
Another person that should be mentioned is Mark, the President of A levels. Mark’s maturity, yet sense of fun, his way of handling many conflicting priorities and challenges without becoming ruffled, was awe-inspiring. Mark looked after us during our week, including accompanying us to marvellously prepared lunches each day by the food tech students. He worked the room like a true professional and was always attentive to our needs. It is hard to imagine he is still so young.
We were lucky to have a few external speakers who quickly made an impact on the students. Pardingtone Nhundu was probably the coolest member of our team – certainly he was the King of the Selfie. He runs an NGO called Careers Zimbabwe, working with African students to help them gain employability and entrepreneurship skills as well as introducing them to different career possibilities. He is a very impressive speaker and quickly engaged the students in thinking about how they might become Zambia’s entrepreneurs of the future.
Lwanga Bwalya, who runs Dominion Academy in Livingstone and who is a past student of Helen’s when he studied in the UK, gave a very entertaining talk on interview skills. Lwanga also talked about the opportunity for and the benefits of the students volunteering for organisations like his. Memory Mundia of Happy Africa, again based in Livingstone, also talked to the students about the importance of volunteering. She offered students the opportunity to train as HIV/AIDS educators, some of whom signed up immediately. She also talked to them about the Zambian workplace, CV writing, creating a good impression at interviews and about opportunities to work and fund part of one’s studies.
All of us would like to say thank you to the staff members at Hillcrest School who gave up their time to support us, cleared the timetable to enable us to talk to their students and will be supporting their students in their university applications. It was fun to get to know Charles, Morgan, Peter and Theresa better outside of school over a crocodile skewer on our final evening!
On our final morning at Hillcrest, we were called upon to do an inspection of the A level boarding houses. The best room had to go to these two “Geniuses at work”. They had dressed up specially for us – we loved the glasses! – and had organised their room so that they had their own living and working spaces. Another moment we will never forget was when we heard five girls practicing singing gospel songs. The harmonies were spine-tingling. Our 10k run accompanied by 25 Hillcrest students was the culmination of a great week. At 1:30 when we mounted the bus headed for Lusaka, we were tired but looking forward to the next part of our adventure.