Celebrating Zambia and Malawi’s 2015 Australia Awards recipients

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As Zambia celebrates its Golden Jubilee, government representative for Zambia and Chief Human Resource Development Officer for the Public Service Management Division of the Department of Human Resource Development, Mr Daniel Kalebaila commended the Australian Government for its investment in the country’s future.

During his opening speech at the Australia Awards – Africa pre-departure briefing in Lusaka for the 27 Zambian and Malawian recipients of Australia Awards for 2015, Mr Kalebaila said: “These awards are special because they have come as the country celebrates its 50th year of independence. There cannot be a better present beyond this massive investment in human capital, which will address future human resource capacity challenges for our country and contribute immensely to the attainment of the 2030 Vision.”

A pre-departure briefing workshop for the Zambian and Malawian recipients of 2015 was held from 21 to 23 October. The recipients were among 200 professionals from 22 African countries who have been awarded the golden opportunity to study Masters and PhD degrees at prestigious Australian universities next year.

The three-day event, hosted by the Australian Government, prepared the Awardees for their travel and studies in Australia and their subsequent contribution to their workplace, sector and country on return.

During his speech, Mr Kalebaila reinforced the idea that “with achievement comes responsibility” and inspired the Awardees to make a difference on their return with a mindset that, apart from becoming ambassadors for their country in Australia, they are now an investment, for themselves as well as their country.

He further directly acknowledged the Australian Government’s contribution to education in Zambia: “Zambia has moved from less than 100 graduates at independence in 1964 to thousands of graduates 50 years later. The Australian Government has a fair share in Zambia’s achievement in this area through this noble gesture.”

Zambia and Malawi have been among the biggest recipients of awards in Africa, with 425 short- and long-term awards provided since 2007.

A shining example of using achievement to contribute to responsibility is that of Malawian Alumna, Barbara Zileni, who studied a Masters of Midwifery as a 2012 Awardee. During a speech to the latest Awardees, Barbara explained how she had thus far implemented her Work Plan on Return and could already feel a change in her workplace in the short while since her return to Malawi in 2013.

From her experience of the Australian education system and the mode of assessment and interaction with other students, she developed a marking rubric to aid students in achieving better results. She proposed the use of this rubric to the head of her department at the University of Malawi’s Kamuzu College of Nursing, where she works as a lecturer. The system has been implemented with plans to propose it to other departments at the University.

During her Masters, Barbara was also exposed to a model of care, non-existent in the unit where she worked, and was challenged to develop a proposal for managing women in antenatal pregnancy and delivery as part of her studies. Upon her return, she presented a proposal to the head of the labour ward to introduce teams of carers working in different shifts. She said she has already experienced fruitful results from the new model and plans to introduce it to other wards as well.

She is currently doing research for a proposal relating to birthing positions, which she has added to her initial Work Plan on Return, perfectly demonstrating how, as emphasised during the workshop, the Work Plan on Return is introduced as a living document that can be further added to by Awardees upon their return.

At the end of the workshop, Malawian Awardee, Haxwell Mkandawire, who will study a Masters of Health and Administration at Flinders University in 2015, said the Australia Awards program was important “because it helps us to fish.” He further explained that the awards impart skills, not only to him directly as an Awardee, but to his institution (the Saint John of God Hospitaller Services) and to his country at large. Passionate about the opportunity afforded to him as a recipient, he added: “The only way to say thank you to the Australian Government is to go to Australia, work hard, come back and implement change in institutions.”

The second day of the workshop ended on a high note with an official reception held in honour of the Awardees, also attended by Australia Awards – Africa Alumni and other high-profile guests. Among these were various local government ministers, as well as Australia’s High Commissioner to Malawi and Zambia, His Excellency Mr Matthew Neuhaus, guest of honour Mr Charles Kamwi from the Maysen and Burowski Group and Mr Arend Biesebroek, Head of Aid Cooperation for the European Union.

During his opening speech at the reception, the High Commissioner reiterated the fact that the skills gained through education would lead to professional mobility and, in turn, create the potential to build a base for entrepreneurship. He also recognised the importance of the Australia Awards program: “I am happy to see our awards contribute so strongly to economic growth and development in Zambia, Malawi and other parts of Africa, and I know that the relationships that are built through these awards will endure and deliver benefits for many years to come.”

The High Commissioner wrapped up the final day of the pre-departure briefing, leaving Awardees with the following words: “You are part of a much broader picture, just as your contribution to your government at its 50th anniversary of independence is part of a much broader national plan. This is a life-changing experience you are about to have and one that will not only impact on you and your workplace, but on your family, and I hope it will be a very positive one.”

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