Langson Chilupula: A Product of Vocational Education and Open Learning

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This story presents some of the milestones in the life of Langson Chilupula, a product of open learning and Vocation Education.

Langson states, “I am one of the few whose lives stand tall among the population of Zambia and an example of what one can be accomplished despite the many hurdles in life.”

Born to Ben Chilupula and Elina Sichaba, the 42-year old Langson is the last born in the family of six (6) and was born in Chisakira village of Lusaka province in a small border town of Chirundu in the south-east part of Zambia.

Langson explains, “My Father died in 1976 when I was only a month old, and as a result, I was brought up by a single mother who despite having no formal education background, managed within her means to raise us up with my other six siblings.

After a few years, my mother and my siblings relocated to the western part of Kafue District from Chisakira to Chikupi Village. Chikupi Village is situated on the western part of Kafue town which is approximately 25 km from Kafue Town, a hub of activities in Kafue District.

In 1983, I was lucky to have started my primary education as grade one at the age of 7 at a nearby Primary School called Chikupi in the rural district of Kafue, Lusaka province. There was no secondary school to provide secondary education in the area at that time except for only one which was the biggest and what seemed to us as a prestigious secondary school in the district called the Mighty Naboye Secondary school. Eight years later, in 1990, I qualified to go to grade 8 at Naboye Secondary school which was 25 km away from the then my home village Chikupi. This meant that I had to cover 50 km a day on foot to and from Naboye secondary school and on an empty stomach in order for me to access secondary education. This was due to the fact that my mother and I were unable to secure accommodation in the vicinities of the Kafue town due to the high cost of rentals. Furthermore, Naboye Secondary School was only a day school and could not offer boarding facilities.”

Langson explain, “Due to the struggles and challenges of covering long distances to and from my home village to Naboye Secondary school, as well as the high cost of living at home, my uncle, the young brother to my mother decided to come to my aid by requesting for a transfer for me to relocate from Naboye Secondary School to Matero Boys Secondary School in Lusaka. Two years down the line that is in 1992, I sat my Junior Secondary School final examination and later on qualified to grade ten (10) for my senior secondary school. As fate would have it, in the same year in 1992, my Uncle decided to send me back to the village stating that I had become a liability to him at the expense of the well-being of his biological children. My pleading that I get a school transfer back to Naboye Secondary School fell on deaf ears as his concentration at that time were his biological children and so he had no time to continue looking into my plight in terms of education. With no option at hand, I had to get back to my mother whom I had left in the village with my siblings. It was at this point where real life’s challenges were experienced as I got involved in many means of acquiring something that could put food on the table to supplement the effort of my mother who had a huge responsibility of looking after all of us with my siblings.

In 1993, I approached Father Antonio, a Roman Catholic priest from Italy who was then based at Holy Savior Parish in Kafue town. The parish was equally approximately 25 km away from our Chikupi Village and sometimes we used to have combined masses because my family and I were Catholic and that is how I came to know him. Father Antonio assisted me with a K400 local currency which is equivalent to $33, with a condition that I pay it back to after multiplying it in a small business that I thought would I embark on.

From the money I borrowed from Father Antonio, I started selling roll buns (small pieces of baked yeast dough) and managed to raise k20,000 local currency which is equivalent $1666 from which I paid the $33, K400 local currency which I got from Father Antonio. This meant that I had to stay for a year without going back to secondary school.

In 1994, I applied to study for vocational skills at St. Ambrose Trade School in Kafue town of which I was enrolled in carpentry and joinery the following year. I graduated in 1997 with the best student award from the then known eloquent Republican President Dr. Frederick Chiluba, Zambia’s Second Republican President. Thereafter I started doing some pieces of work in carpentry and joinery and managed again to raise some money which made me enroll for evening classes in 2002 at Naboye Secondary School to have me complete my secondary education, having failed in the first place because of circumstances explained earlier on. In this very year, I enrolled to sit for general School certificate in three subjects and that is Mathematics, Commerce, and Woodwork which I passed very well. In 2004, I again enrolled at the same school in the evening classes in three subjects that is Religious education, Biology, and English which I successfully passed and attained the 5 O Levels. This was a complete turning point in my life as my dream of having completed my secondary education became a reality.

Towards the end of 2005, I decided to apply for studies as a teacher of Design and Technology at Technical Vocation Teachers’ Training College (TVTC) in Luanshya on the Copperbelt Province in the Northern part of Zambia and in 2006 I was admitted to this institution of Higher Learning and that marked the beginning of my journey to tertiary education.

The fact that I got married in the year 2000 and went to college leaving behind a wife and a set of twins as well as my mother and other dependents culminated into a compounded tough life at college. On the other side, I struggled to fit in well in a class of colleagues who had sat in a regular class for three years and ultimately covered the syllabi for senior secondary. There were several topics that I did not adequately cover and understood due to the short period of evening lessons. Admittedly, this almost made me give up! However, I persevered and instead bought some study materials especially for mathematics and science and engaged some of my classmates at their own convenient time to help me grasp the concept that I could have missed out during my studies. In reality, it meant I was studying two parallel ‘programmes’: one being that of studying as Teacher while the other being that of covering the topics, I missed at Grade 10 to 12 especially in Mathematics and Science with help of classmates.”

Langson goes on to explain more about his family and balancing his studies, “I am married to Christine Phiri Chilupula, a University of Zambia graduate Teacher, and in our 18 years old marriage God has blessed us with three children; a 17 years old set of twins (Petronella Tweenga Chilupula and Precious Tweense Chilupula) as well as an 8 years old boy (Twalumbu Chishiko Chilupula). The girls are in Grade Eleven while the boy is in Grade One.

At the end of the course, I graduated as a Teacher with a merit in Design and Technology in the year 2009 and walked out with the most outstanding student award.

I wish to mention that while at TVTC, I was elected President of the Students’ Union, and at that time a lot of projects were hatched.  There was also a great improvement in the peace and communication channel of the institution. In addition to being awarded the Best Student award, I was also awarded the College Principal’s award for diligence service to the institution.

Upon my 2009 graduation, I was picked by Centro Orientameto Educativo (C.O.E) to spearhead a project funded by European Union as a field coordinator with the complex task of identifying areas where the organization could build community vocation colleges with a specific view of giving survival skills to the youth especially those that had lost hope of continuing with their formal education. I was proficient in organizing meetings with Village Headmen and Headwomen as well as parents in different rural parts of Kafue. Furthermore, I used to organize meetings with youths themselves as they were a reason for the project. As a team, we came up with a slogan ‘to build’ a cadre of youths full of hope, confidence which made them understand that their future is brighter, if only they persevered and worked a little bit harder.

After working at C.O.E as a Field Coordinator for three months, I was sent to Rome, Italy for presentations of projects that were taking place in Zambia. I was also privileged to be one of the delegates that were chosen to make submissions to the G8 Countries that met in Milano, Italy, in 2009 over the unfair treatment of the illegal immigrants coming from different parts of Africa.

I am a happy and proud person today to witness that most of the youths C.O.E mentored from that programme are running their own entrepreneurial activities such as building and plastering, welding, carpentry and joinery, tailoring and agriculture.

While with C.O.E, I also attended lessons at Thornpark Construction Training Centre, and I was successfully awarded certificates of competence in many fields such as setting out a building using dumpy level, tiling and paving and building in-door and window frames. Consequently, this enabled me to establish my own company dealing in various construction jobs and offers employment to a number of youths.

In 2010, after completing the C.O.E project, I then joined the Ministry of Education as a teacher and my first posting was Tubalange Basic School (then under Kafue district). I worked at Tubalange Basic School for only three months thereafter I was transferred to my former junior secondary school- Naboye Secondary, where I worked for five years.

In 2013, I was accepted to study at the University of South Africa in the faculty of Development Studies and Economics and successfully completed my studies in 2017, and subsequently graduated in 2018 in Pretoria, South Africa.

As if that is not enough, I’m currently pursuing another undergraduate degree in Design and Technology with Kabwe Institute of Technology under Kwame Nkrumah University. I will be proceeding into my third Year in January 2019.

Upon being deployed as a Teacher in government I have received several awards from the Ministry responsible for education among them; the Minister’s Award as the Most Innovative Teacher in Lusaka, best performing Teacher at Naboye secondary school.

Additionally, I reignited my college trade unionism passion by joining one of the biggest Teacher trade unions in the country, the Professional Teachers Union of Zambia to which I rose through the rank and file of the movement to occupy the powerful chairmanship of the union’s most densely populated Lusaka province, the capital city of Zambia. I, however, resigned from the position in 2016 in my own accord.

I have since 2017 been promoted as Head of Department- Practical Subjects, and subsequently transferred from Naboye Secondary School to a newly build Likasa Boys Boarding Secondary School.

On 5th October 2018 (World Teachers’ Day) I was further awarded as the most hardworking and best-performing teacher by my new school.

Through my rough childhood upbringing, I do not want to forget the struggles I faced in order to be where I am today. I believe that my challenges were just a tip of an iceberg as compared to the challenges faced by many children and young people. For this reason, I have dedicated part of my work to do social and charity works.

As a proud and patriotic citizen, using my construction company, I renovated Kafue District Board Secretaries office that was gutted on fire at no fee at all. The office just provided materials. I also completed a Boarding Master’s (Teacher) house at Likasa boarding school, a school that had no single house for a teacher since it was opened in 2013. The school just provided materials as well. I have helped a good number of youths both financially and materially to go back to school, go to a tertiary institution and more importantly to trade centers.

Besides teaching which is my core business of the day in the Ministry of Education, I am also an assessor for Technical Education, Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training examination. Additionally, I am participating in the writing of Design and Technology books under the new curriculum.

I dream of establishing a social welfare and skills training institute for vulnerable children especially those who dropped out of school, as well as offer financial and material support to pupils in formal schools. 

Education is a basic human right, and every child must have access to education. It is also an equalizer in life.  I believe that all forms of education whether from a formal school, radio, television, internet, school evening classes, skills and adult literacy, the popular ‘Learning at Taonga Market’ or any other type of programme is useful and has potential to bring positive change to one’s life and the rest of Africa.

Today, I am happy and proud to mention that, whatever mode I used to acquire my education, no one is able to identify that I had that rough and tough journey. I thank my Almighty God for the love and grace bestowed upon me, and for giving me the passion, talent, and strength to persevere in both career development and leadership.

I also thank my mother who has today grown old for having encouraged and motivated me when I was down. I pray for her to live long. Undoubtedly, my mother is a reason I respect all women and remain an advocate for women economic empowerment, gender equity, and social protection. For me, women are a perfect symbol of humanity especially single mothers.

I am indeed a product and symbol of the power of perseverance, evening classes, learning from home and skills training. My life guiding quote is that of South Africa’s first post-Apartheid first President, Nelson Mandela: “Education is the most important weapon we can use to change the world”. With the help and guidance from Almighty God, I will forever continue studying in the quest to bring desired development to myself, my family, my community, and ultimately my country Zambia.”

This article was originally contributed by Chapter Chair for Africa, Charity Bwalya.

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