British Council Zambia on behalf of the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the UK recently hosted an alumni event in Kitwe, focused around a symposium at which alumni had the opportunity to discuss and measure their development plans post scholarship.  These development plans were formulated prior to and during their CSC scholarship.

The symposium was particularly targeted at doctoral alumni as they were the majority alumni demographic in Kitwe, giving them an opportunity to discuss their development plans with peers,  share experiences, explore alternative strategies of achieving their objectives and refine plans where appropriate. The event was however open to all CSC alumni in addition to potential PhD applicants who were invited to feed into the discussions and receive inspiration to apply for Commonwealth Scholarships in the future.

The event opened with welcome remarks from British Council Director, Mr. Wayne Harper who commended the alumni for taking this time away from their day to day work to reflect on the impact they want to make to Zambia’s development.  Presentations were made by five alumni, with alumni and students in the audience having a chance to question and give their comments after each presentation.

Professor Exildah Kasumus (2001 Commonwealth Scholar, PhD Forestry and Vegetative Propagation, University of Aberdeen) presentation focused on her plans to influence policy in the forestry sector particularly policies surrounding deforestation.  During the question and answer session, she stated that in the future she hoped there would be sound policies to police deforestation in the country, including interventions which will identify the gaps between research, policy and business and create linkages amongst the three sectors.

Dr. Royd Vinya (2006 Commonwealth Scholar, PhD Environmental Change, Wolfson College Oxford) explained that he had actually worked with Professor Kasumu on a number of research projects and papers.  He had however taken a slightly different approach from Professor Kasumu, by working with communities for better forest management and preservation.  “I am using the skills obtained through my Commonwealth Scholarship to improve livelihoods in my community by promoting ownership of forest reserves and sensitising communities on how the environment is affected by climate change as well as researching and exploring interventions to remedy this.”

Dr. Gillian Kabwe (2001 Commonwealth Scholar, PhD Agroforestry, Lincoln University) started her presentation by making it known that unlike most alumni in the room, her award was actually in New Zealand.  Dr. Kabwe’s current focus is being a mentor to students in her position as Director of External Relations at the Copperbelt University, stating “Even though I am currently not practicing in my field of study, the virtue of having an educated population is that they contribute directly and indirectly to the entire education system by being the educators.”

Dr. Felix Kalaba (2010 Commonwealth Scholar, PhD Environmental Development, University of Leeds) played a key role in the establishment of the Africa Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Mining at Copperbelt University which was funded by the World Bank.  In his presentation, he described how he has “used my skills to mentor young men, including a Mandela-Washington fellow”. 

Dr. Bruce Mwiya (2011 Commonwealth Scholar, PhD Entrepreneurship, University of Wolverhampton) revealed he had only returned from the UK in January 2015.  “My main focus since I returned is to develop an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Copperbelt University. At the moment 250 students are being trained in the School of Business on how to start and grow a successful business.”  In addition to lecturing on entrepreneurship, strategy, finance and intellectual property, Dr Mwiya was appointed coordinator of the University’s Entrepreneurship Centre on his return.

The discussion was brought to a close by alumnus Brenda Haamoonga (2007 Commonwealth Scholar, MEd Education, University of Bolton) who delivered a challenge to all alumni –“We should remain committed to our plans and ask ourselves, did we get the scholarship for titles on our Curriculum Vitae’s or was it to make a difference.” 

The symposium successfully closed with a networking reception, and a promise to keep the local network of alumni in the Copperbelt even closer.