Contributed by
NKEMBO CHRIS KIALA
2019 Educator Scholar
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Educator Stories

Scholar Spotlight: 2019 Educator Scholar Nkembo Chris Kiala

What are you up to right now? What projects and new ideas are exciting you personally, academically, professionally? 
Professionally, I’ve been heavily invested in ensuring the Student Enterprise Program (SEP) at ALA is making adequate improvements over time. The SEP is a simulation of a real-life economy with actual enterprises that deal in real money here on campus. For the 2020-2021 academic year, we have a total of 24 Student Enterprises that range from Agri-business, retail, tech, civil society organisations that focus on feminism ,and sexual education. Consulting and auditing enterprises, some enterprises that assist with the internal functioning of ALA such as House coordinators and a growing wellness sector with enterprises focusing on mental wellness, sign language, and autism. As a program, we have our limitations and there is a constant need to leverage the expertise of professionals that work in some of the mentioned fields. These experts volunteer as SEP Advisory Board Members and they come from all over the globe. We are grateful for their contributions which take place in a formal setting three times a year. These sessions are known as Board Meetings and enterprises get to practice some accountability as they manage projects to completion. 

Academically, I have been fortunate and able to continue with my studies. Like any driven, passionate person, I seek to travel further and beyond. I’m currently concluding an Honours Degree in International Politics through the University of South Africa. The program has been a great work-life balance mediator in the sense that, work and downtime with the family had always been the only two conflicting parties, now at least my studies have chimed in.     

Have you been keeping in touch with your Bezos Scholar Alumni, and if so — how?
I have been keeping up with the Bezos Scholars Alumni through Facebook. It remains a platform where we get to share with others accolades and moments of pain. It’s heartwarming seeing that my cohort has moved on with Local Ideas Festivals and got them off the ground. I think the time and hard work we put in at Aspen returned home with even more drive and rigour. I challenge us all to never give up and to keep doing hard things.

Which influential books, albums, podcasts, or films would you personally recommend to the BSP community of curious minds?
Never in my life did I think it would be a thing I would do, but here I am. I host a Mental Health show called “ Noggin Notes Africa Podcast” where I explore various mental health challenges and discuss life empowering notions with our guests. It’s well-aligned with a strong belief I hold in people helping and making people. A friend of mine from high school, Sifiso Ripinga who is the founder of Noggin Notes reached out to me after he had gone through a three-day silent retreat and said “I want you to be the host of Noggin Notes Africa Podcast” I thought about it for a split second and said “yes!”. It is aligned with my values and the principle of people making and helping people. There’s about seven episodes online with more to come. It is also what the guests share on the podcast that resonates deeply with me. 

Who or what are you finding inspiration in right now?
I am finding the current ALA BSP cohort so inspiring at this moment! They have taken the South African Ideas Festival to new heights. The BSP team led by their Entrepreneurial Leadership coach Ssanyu Sematimba have only proven how much-untapped talent there is out there, and with the right offering, you can bring them to light!  

Anything else you want to share with the BSP community?
It had been a long time since ALA shifted all forms of interaction online due to Covid-19. It took a lot of adjusting by all, I think the most significant was making the once in-person classroom still feel somewhat the same bearing in mind the nuances. The pandemic and taking classes online presented the opportunity for students to take on even more ownership of their learning. There was this genuine transfer of responsibility that gave the student more agency. Many students wer e at home and could have succumbed to a variety of distractions, however, that was not the case. I saw my students every day, on time and fully present ready to work. This was remarkable.

The other kind of exciting aspect of all this was the potential of online learning and teaching. I have always been a strong believer in leveraging technology in the classroom but this was done effectively. Students were furthering their computer skills and at the same time managing to lead healthy social lives connecting with their peers virtually. I think striking a balance was potentially needed to see less recreational computer usage and more constructive use. Students found purpose in their time behind the screen and found adequate downtime away from their laptops.

Lastly, I think being back on campus, and seeing the students and my colleagues at work have replenished a massive sense of lost connection. Humans are fundamentally interactors. We think and speak our thoughts where possible. I found myself sending longer text messages to people during the heavy lockdown in South Africa, now that we are back at work, I tend to speak longer with people. A simple “hello” is easily turned into a full-on conversation. I realised we miss the connection, and we need to share our thoughts in one way or another.

Contributed by
NKEMBO CHRIS KIALA
2019 Educator Scholar
Categories
Educator Stories