UKZAMBIANS: Explain about yourself?
I was born in Mansa, Luapula Province, in the northcentral part of Zambia. I share my mother (Kapya Joyce Kalebaila) with one brother (Chanda Mubanga) and my father (Kambidima Eddie Wotela) with four sisters and two brothers. I am the first born with two living sisters (Womba and Mutumwa) and three living brothers—that is, Chanda Mubanga, Wotela Wotela, and Isaya Wotela. I lost my sister Infwama Wotela in 2005 and more recently Kalemba Wotela (Mrs Yoyo) in 2011. I have a stunningly beautiful daughter Chibula Wotela.
I did my undergraduate studies at the University of Zambia (Lusaka, Zambia) where I graduated in 1993 with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) with majors in Demography and minors in Economics. In 1997, I enrolled for postgraduate studies at the University of Zimbabwe (Harare, Zimbabwe) and graduated the following year with a Master of Science Degree in population studies. I was awarded an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation scholarship for Doctoral studies in Demography in the Centre for Actuarial Research (CARe) at the University of Cape Town in 2004. On graduation, I took up an appointment as a William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow under the Centre for Actuarial Research—a position I held until the end of 2009. From my training and experience, I have picked up skills in demography, ethnography, quantitative and qualitative research techniques, as well as planning, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of development interventions.
At the beginning of 2010, I took up an appointment as a lecturer in the Graduate School of Public and Development Management (P&DM) at the University of Witwatersrand. My immediate career goals are to develop my current knowledge as well as diversify my academic and scholarly interests to innovation and development studies.
Most of my wealth lies in the friends, colleagues, and mentors I have who have never at any time failed to support me in time of need. For this reason, I cherish being equally supportive and being around people especially those who give me a chance to feel myself.
UKZAMBIANS: [If you are married, when did you meet your spouse] and how important is family to you?
My family is very important. I grew up in ‘both worlds’, daddy’s money on one hand and mummy’s love on the other. My parents (and my maternal grandmother) nurtured and reared me with a rod—fortunately; they used it ‘to beat me into shape and not out of shape’. My hope is that I have turned out to be what they wanted me to be. My extended family has been more than supportive. Apart from helping me with my education, my mother’s sisters and cousins taught me social and life skills that I continue to use to my advantage.
UKZAMBIANS: What do you owe your parents?
I owe my parents everything—especially, my mother for loving and caring for me when I was young and helpless. Second, I owe my father for his financial support during my basic schooling and part of undergraduate education. For this, I always thank my good Lord God.
UKZAMBIANS: What is your current profession?
I am a demographer by profession because for all my three degrees, I read demography and population studies with some economics. During my studies, I picked up skills in ethnography, quantitative and qualitative research approaches and techniques.
As an occupation, I am currently convening and lecturing ‘policy management, monitoring and evaluation’ at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. I also sometimes teach ‘economic development and population trends’. In addition, I supervise research students pursuing masters and doctoral degrees in public and development management. I continue to write on Zambian demography before I take up a new line of research. I am also working on a manual that will help business and management students to ground their research academically. I am targeting graduate students, such as Masters of Business Administration, who are working practitioners but studying part-time.
Before then, I started my career life in 1994 working for the Zambian planning department—the former National Commission for Development Planning (NCDP)—as an Economist cum Demographer and rose to the post of Senior Planner in 1999 before I left. It is during this time that I picked up skills in planning, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of development interventions. I was also a part-time lecturer at the University of Zambia—before I took up the position on full-time basis in 2002.
UKZAMBIANS: Can you share the challenges and accomplishments about your profession?
An article (http://www.uct.ac.za/mondaypaper/archives/?id=7576) that appeared in the University of Cape Town Monday Paper (Volume 28.10, of 27 July 2009) captures my professional challenges and accomplishments. From my cohort, Luwingu Secondary School (Northern Province, Zambia) managed to send only one pupil to university in three years. This, however, should not be mistaken for intelligence on my part, but rather hard work and sacrifice. My major milestone came with this announcement:
“For the degree of doctor of philosophy in Demography… Kambidima Wotela … For a thesis which contributes significantly to our knowledge on Zambian fertility, showing how pre-industrial ethnic differentials in fertility persist to the present day and, in doing so, enhances our understanding of sub-national differences in fertility and the importance of ethnicity”.
My next challenge has been delivering academic materials to different audiences. Although I had made headway on this front since my first lecture to final-year undergraduate demography students at the University of Zambia in 1999, I have continued to find ways of effectively delivering academic materials to different audiences. I have taught demography and population studies to first-year Actuarial Scientists, fourth-year Medical Students, final-year undergraduate Geographical and Environmental Science Students and Masters Public Health as well as Public and Development Management students. I have also taught introductory monitoring and evaluation to senior and middle management officials of the South African national, provincial and municipal government. Through this experience, I found that it is not what you know that matters but how you communicate this knowledge. So far, student assessments show that I present complex materials simply but effectively. For example, below is an email I received after teaching demography to medical students for the first time:
I have spoken to several students regarding your lecture. The feedback I received was all positive. They felt that you brought the subject across well and that you had ‘presence’. This is their first lesson in Demographics so all the terms were new to them and so some things needed a little more explanation. They felt that the PowerPoint presentation was fine as is.
I hope this information is of assistance to you.
UKZAMBIANS: Have you been involved in volunteer or charity work?
I am a Trustee of All Star Kids (http://www.allstarkids.org.uk); an international charity working to give children who have a poor start in life a better chance in future. Before then, I was involved with the precursor to All Star Kids, the Andy Cole Children’s Foundation when it was launched in Zambia in 2001. My ambitions in charity work and children go beyond my involvement in All Star Kids and Andy Cole Children’s Foundation. As an avid part-time lecturer of demography at the University of Zambia, I took the role of Robin Hood or Rob Roy MacGregor. I am shameless to state that I got from my rich employers to give to my poor students at the time when academic skills and stationery stocks at the University of Zambia were not sufficient.
UKZAMBIANS: If you live outside Zambia, why and for how long have you lived overseas?
I left Zambia in 2004 to pursue my doctorate degree at the University of Cape Town. My employers at the time, the University of Zambia, were not too happy that I had left before completing my initial two-year tenure with them so they terminated my contract. My repeated letters and visits (the last one being in 2008 after I had completed my studies) to have me reinstate failed. By then, all the offers I had received were outside Zambia, so I accepted the offer made by the University of the Witwatersrand.
UKZAMBIANS: When were you last in Zambia and do you have plans to return home?
I was in Zambia this year for two weeks to attend my immediate sister’s funeral. Yes, all I do here is to amass knowledge that I will use when I return to Zambia just after 2015.
UKZAMBIANS: If you had an opportunity to change anything about Zambia, what would that be?
To help Zambia make a fresh start…we need to ‘take’ the country apart and then reconstruct. I feel that part of Zambia’s developmental constraints is that it still operates within structures left by the colonial government. That is like loading a 1-ton vehicle with 20-tons or driving a car—that is, consuming 1 litre of fuel for less than a kilometre travelled. Knowingly or otherwise, each of our leaders have tried their best to develop Zambia under very difficult conditions—for example, Kaunda focussed on social infrastructure development while the late Chiluba focussed on promoting economic growth and the late Mwanawasa on good governance. The problem is that these components are antagonistic so they need some kind of a systems approach. Further, these efforts operate in structures that Zambians have had very little input. I argue in my forthcoming paper that:
The Zambian Government adopted an administration designed to serve the British colonial government. Gore-Browne (1937) stresses that although the colonial government in Northern Rhodesia was implementing a dual policy (one for the White minority and the other for the indigenous Black Majority), they did not have a strong native emphasis—probably because they did not intend to stay in Zambia for long. Further, the British designed an administration that encompassed their interests that spanned beyond the Zambian border. Gore-Browne (1937) proposed the internal reorganisation and the Federation with its neighbours, to “…give the White population of Northern Rhodesia what they ask, union with their brethren across the Zambezi …” The Zambian central government moved to Lusaka from Livingstone to facilitate easy access to Harare and Zomba during the Federation of Rhodesia (Zambia and Zimbabwe) and Nyasaland (Malawi). Only Malawi was brave enough to move it Capital city to the central most point of the country.
To help Zambia make a fresh start, I stepped back to study its history so that I understand its people—see attached paper (http://escholarship.org/uc/item/0j58j1nz;jsessionid=F71766D070E611623DA4F776570FAF31). I will soon share with you the entire contents of my forth-coming paper in which I have my proposed governance structures. I use literature to suggest that Zambia should have seven provinces rather than nine. I also suggest that we need to make education locally (provincial level) relevant but nationally and internationally competitive. For example, Luapula Province should host a university that specialises in fisheries and water management while Southern Province in animal and crop husbandry.
UKZAMBIANS: What is your advice to the Zambian youths?
The youth need to reposition themselves. They need to take on the leadership role. We all know that in most Zambian traditional societies, the duty of the youth is non-other-than looking after the interests of their elders. The elders have consolidated this position because of their wealth, which in some cases comes with power. However, with education, the youth can assume leadership. Think about it, technically, the minority are ruling Zambia because only 4 per cent of the population is above the age of 60 years. Sadly, I have my reservations that anyone above 60 years-old can have long-term plans. What does this mean to the development of Zambia? If you can answer that question then you know why I want the youth to take on the leadership role in Zambia.
UKZAMBIANS: When were you happiest?
When I invigilated my first examination, I was so happy that I can’t describe the feeling. I had planned and waited for that moment. I remember walking into the Basement lecture room at the University of Zambia with the examination papers that I had prepared—I remember the security officer stopping me and asking me to produce my student card … then someone behind shouted that ‘ni ba lecturer basiye’.
UKZAMBIANS: What is your most treasured possession?
A brain that works and a body that is able to move as instructed.
UKZAMBIANS: If you could bring something extinct back to life, what would you choose?
My late siblings, ‘Mwelwa’ whom I never got to meet but somehow I feel her anyway and then my beloved sisters Kalemba and Infwama. They made my life complete and I look forward to reuniting with them.
UKZAMBIANS: Finally, what is your guiltiest pleasure if any?
This may sound crazy but the emotional fulfilment of having living parents when there are so many people in this world, like my little niece Sindiswa, who have never met their parents. Lastly, the good lord for giving me good health and a brain that works.