MY EXPERIENCE WITH KUCETEKELA FOUNDATION
By Bwalya Kasanda
I am sitting in my room… looking out of my windowpane, in Songsten Khang House, Pestalozzi, United Kingdom. I can see the present, the future too, but my thoughts right now are darting about in the past. I am trying to sort out tracks and puzzles of how I got here. The answer has always been at the back of my mind. But it is not something that I often write about. So here it comes.
They say “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Mine began with a smile and it was a journey of a thousand miles. As I sit in this room I find it impossible to imagine going home on foot. The memory never blares; I remember one 2007 afternoon being called from class to go to Ms Banda’s office, the then senior teacher of Northmead Basic School. I must confess that although I was not one for offences at school I was a little scared, just 12. But the news that followed was unfamiliar to me. I had never heard of Kucetekela Foundation, and here I was, being given an application form. At the time I was just confused. Things soon fell into place and excitement crept in. Given my financial circumstances, I considered myself lucky to be awarded such an amazing scholarship, and I did my level best in the application process, the tests inclusive. Tears of joy rolled down my cheeks when one December morning I was informed that I, among nine others, had won the scholarship. Ready for new experiences, I packed my almost empty suitcase and headed for Leopards Hill secondary school.
KF did everything for me- it provided transport, bought me clothes and textbooks and a lot of other things. I was fully supported and good to go! Most importantly, I had the opportunity to obtain quality education at among the best schools in the country, something I had never really dreamt of. I was on my way to achieving things greater than I had dreamt of. Although I spent a lot of time in boarding school, interacting with kids often from backgrounds more privileged than my own, I had staff from KF come over to school to check on my progress and ask for any concerns. I felt that I was not alone. I felt cared for and supported. I fit in very well. I vividly remember all the beautiful events, starting with the orientation luncheon at Dolphin restaurant and then the mentor’s luncheon at the Taj Pamodzi Hotel. Oh the mentorship programme that is another marvellous experience on its own. I found a wonderful mentor in Juanita Kashoki. I often had a chance to meet with fellow KF students from the other two schools, Ibex Hill and Chalo Trust through the many events that we had, such as the Hope foundation trip, the Ndubaluba trip and the South Africa trip. Additionally, I have had the privilege of exchanging cultures with students from Hotchkiss from the USA.
In both my examination classes, grade nine and twelve I was provided with all the resources that I needed, including tuition and past papers. Mr Mukena was always there busy trying to sort out the school accounts, the fellows from America were wonderful support and Mrs Nkowane, the mother of the organisation gave me inspiration. One day I will look back and say, “I never made it on my own, I am just a testimony.” KF is the brain child of Oliver Barry, and I am grateful to him for all he does, and to his friends and family who do their utmost to sponsor the organisation.
I completed my high school at Chalo Trust, quite successfully, and proceeded to take a gap year in 2013. During this time, KF introduced me to the Kalikiliki Literacy Project, where I gave back to the community through teaching. Simultaneously, KF was always on the look out for opportunities, many of which, I am humbled to say, were availed to me. Initially, the KF contract lasted five years-sponsoring students throughout their secondary school lives. But the organisation later saw the need to help its alumni become successful who faced after school challenges, a huge and selfless step in my opinion. I applied for several great programmes such as USAP, African Leadership Academy and IB in Pestalozzi UK. It is through this tedious process that I got the opportunity to sit down in my room…looking out of my windowpane, in Songsten Khang House, Pestalozzi, United Kingdom. I now look to the future as I complete the dying months of an interestingly challenging Diploma and seek out other opportunities in the west.