New - St Andrews' new Hospital Administrator, Chris Zambira, in his own words


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Chris Zambira – Hospital Administrator

Home  /  Mtunthama people  /  Chris Zambira – Hospital Administrator

Tell us about your birth, childhood and upbringing, and your family?

I was born on 12th May 1982 at Nkhalamba Village T/A Malenga in Ntchisi District. I am the first born in a family of seven; three males and four females. I am told that while three months old, my parents moved from Ntchisi and settled in Kasungu at Wimbe Village, under T/A Wimbe, where I have lived until I left for higher education.

While my mother was engaged in subsistence farming to support our livelihood, my father a few years later found casual employment with Kamuzu Academy, the institution that later trained him into a plumber. This is a vocational skill he has attained from 1988 and worked with KA until his retirement in 2004.

He was later engaged by St. Faith Clinic as their plumber until he reached the mandatory retirement age in 2015. Both parents in their sixties (very old in Malawi’s life expectancy) live at Wimbe in Kasungu supported by their son in subsistence farming.

What is your  educational background?

My parents believed in education. They say they were inspired by Kamuzu Academy students where my father worked and would usually compare the ages of the students to their son.

I did my primary education (Std 1-8) at Wimbe Full Primary School from 1988 to 1996. I did not succeed to go to Secondary school despite being the brightest student of the school at that time (This was the time when Malawi had just gone through political transition and the situation affected delivery of social services such as education and Kasungu district being the home for the late Kamuzu Banda, the preceding president, suffered most).

There was panic in the family when I was not selected as my father could not afford private secondary schools which were offering competitive education than government secondary schools. He either did not want me to repeat for he had always wanted his son to finish school at the tender age just as the Kamuzu Academy students he saw every day at his workplace were.

It was at this time that Reverend Frank Dzantenge visited the home to cheer his faithfulls that he disclosed that the church intended to open a correspondence and distant education centre (MCDE) that was later to turn into a community Day Secondary School.

I enrolled with Mtunthama DEC (later to be called Mtunthama CDSS) in 1997 and continued to work hard in preparation for the Malawi Junior Certificate of Education (JCE) that was to be sat the next year. The education system at that time allowed the best scorers at JCE to be relocated to a government secondary school to fill any possible vacant places. I felt that was my last chance to fight for a place at a government secondary school. During exams I scored as expected and emerged again the best student at the school.

However, there was a change in government education policy as the school was turned into a community day secondary and there was no need to transfer best students to a national secondary. Although it showed positive growth of the school but had side effects to me as a student because it meant being taught by the same non-qualified teachers, in-sufficient learning materials etc (Thanks to some support the school was getting from Kamuzu Academy students, UK visiting students and American Peace Corps).

I sat for Malawi School Certificate of Education first in the year 2000 and passed but with relatively low grades although by the standards of the schools and surrounding schools I was still the best student. My score surpassed some of the score of my teachers whom we sat the exams together for they wanted to improve their grades so as to be considered for upgrading into secondary school teachers from initial primary school teaching that they were trained for.

At this juncture my father could not afford private colleges. I was not happy and decided to repeat. This was one of the toughest decisions ever made at my age because it was very unusual for one who has passed MSCE to choose to repeat. My peers and some of my teachers translated it as being pompous and highlighted that I would fail the next exam. Three people understood my potential (my father, my mother and my reverend).

They provided me with psychosocial counselling and encouragement that the decision I had taken was a right one. “Tikufuna gilajuweti pasukulu pathu” (we want a graduate from our school) was a prophetic voice I remember to have come from Reverend Dzantenge as he urged me not to be discouraged by people who lacked vision.

When I sat for the MSCE for the second time in 2001, a record for the school and my own record were broken. I qualified for the University Entrance Examinations (UEE) (only a few in the whole district reached this far). While the entire community and beyond were amazed at the achievement and regarded me as a hero, my eyes were set at the next goal, the UEE as it was fondly called. I had never been outside Kasungu district in my life, the examinations were to be taken in Lilongwe at The Natural Resources College in a few months time. My father decided to send me to his relative in Lilongwe to expose me to the other world so as to extend my world view.

He negotiated with his superiors at Kamuzu Academy to take his son with them as they were going to purchase maintenance materials for the school in Lilongwe. I remember Mr Samuel Themba giving me a sit in Kamuzu Academy car and dropped me at a place where my cousin worked as a shop assistant in Lilongwe. The first place in the city to know was the National Library where I spent most of time reading various books including UEE guides.

When I sat for UEE I was successful and got selected to pursue Bachelor of Education Humanities at one of the major constituent colleges of the University Malawi, Chancellor College. Despite that this was not my preferred choice but it was a remarkable goal.

I graduated in 2007 and was posted to teach at one of the outstanding government aided national girls secondary school in Zomba. There after I enrolled with The Polytechnic another constituent college of the University of Malawi for a Graduate Diploma in Management studies which I completed in 2010. In the same year I enrolled for an E-Learning Master of Finance and Control hosted by Chancellor College and graduated in 2013.

3) What jobs did you have before coming to St Andrews ?

After graduation, government posted me to teach at St. Mary’s Girls Secondary schools in Zomba where I taught Bible Knowledge. A year later I was posted to Nsala Community day secondary school as a senior teacher where I taught and Head of humanities Department. I taught Life skills, Social and Development Studies and Bible Knowledge.

I later moved to Lilongwe in order to strategically position myself for a master thesis completion and was posted to Tsokankanansi CDSS where I continued as Head of Department.

I left government in order to consolidate my new career and joined Lilongwe SPCA as Finance and Education Manager. After full completion of my Master’s degree, I joined a management consultancy firm in 2014 as a Junior Consultant up until I joined St. Andrews Hospital in September 2015 as Hospital Administrator. Apart from Consultancy work, I was engaged as part time lecturer in marketing management at Assemblies of God University.

I later became coordinator for newly introduced commercial programmes at College for Christian Ministries where I also taught Business Management. I was also involved in curriculum formulation for the faculty of Commerce programmes for the newly registered Lake Malawi Anglican University.

Why did you choose to apply to St Andrews?

When I saw the advert in the papers, I just instantly felt the conviction that I was the best candidate for the job. After some moments I began to reflect on what had happened for the position to fall vacant. I had lost connection with Mtunthama people for some time and I couldn’t figure out what was happening in Mtunthama. I called my father and asked and he knew nothing. I called Reverend Dzantenge to find out, although I knew that he was no longer in Mtunthama but I felt he would know something since he was connected with my predecessor. He told me in brief and encouraged me to apply.

I was engulfed with fear of the unknown but still got the inner conviction that I was the best candidate. I called my personal counsellor and confidante who was acting as training chaplain for the Diocese. He agreed with my view that I would be the best candidate for the job but expressed his personal reservations as to whether it was the best option for me considering how the situation was in the community; the disagreements within the community, the donors, the church etc. he felt my preoccupations as a consultant and Coordinator for the commercial programmes at College for Christian ministries as well as a technical member in the newly formed Lake Malawi Anglican University in Lilongwe were good career directions.

“Don’t you think I would be the unifying force in this situation?” I asked my personal confidante. “May be or may be not, but you can try” he responded and we ended our conversation there.

It was neither how much I would get nor how much I would forgo at my present job but I was convinced that is where my services were needed most.

What do you most like about St Andrews and Mtunthama ?

I like about the people and the connections I have with almost everyone in the community. I have that great sense of belongingness. Serving them make me proud, it gives me satisfaction. I think I beat the Maslow hierarchy of needs hypothesis for I reach self-actualisation even before my lower needs are met.

What are your current ambitions ?

I would like to consolidate my career in the field of health administration. I would like to pursue a Master of Science in either Public Health, Health care Administration or Health management and later a PhD in either field. Such a career path in public health would put me at the centre of managing community health and would consolidate my zeal in preventive community health programmes and sustain community livelihood while positioning the hospital into a pinnacle of sustaining health communities in line with sustainable development goals.

If you were not working at St Andrews, what would be your dream job?

I would be a University lecturer or a management consultant not because they would be dream jobs but that is where I would have opportunities to serve.