IMAGINE the feeling of being mistaken for a security officer when in fact you are reporting for teaching practice at a high school.
This is what Ray Banda had to go through when he met former University of Zambia students who knew him as a security officer at the same institution (UNZA).
“The first time I reported for my teaching practice at a named high school in Lusaka, some teachers asked whether I went for security duties because some of them knew me as a security officer at the University of Zambia when they were students there.” he says.
Security officer? Cast that aside as the ladder towards achieving his life-long ambition of becoming a high school teacher.
Mr Banda is well-known to many students who have trained at UNZA.
A good number of those who studied at UNZA from 1986 to 2011 would easily recognise him.
Mr Banda worked at Zambian’s highest learning institution as a security officer.
He started working at UNZA in 1986 on a temporaly basis as a security guard at the age of 21 years after completing his secondary school at Lusaka High School.
The security officer rose to the rank of security officer class three after working for the institution for four years.
The 51-year-old soon realised that being a security officer was not a hindrance for one to improve academic qualifications.
“School can take one to many destinations and this is why I decided to go back to school. One thing I know is that sometimes the beginning may not be okay but the end should be okay, this is my principle that helped me start all over again,” he said.
Returning to school to improve on his grade 12 results was the first step of transforming his life.
In 2010 Mr Banda registered for GCE examination class at the University of Zambia so that he could improve his grade 12 results to meet the entry requirements to enroll at UNZA.
He passed his examinations and in 2011 applied to study for a bachelor of arts of Education, Civic and Religious Education through distance education at the institution.
Remarkably the determined security officer’s application was successful.
“At this moment I knew that this was a new turn in my life because I was looking for an opportunity that would allow me to go ahead with my academic life,” he said.
Working at the university gave Mr Banda an opportunity to make a lot of friends who held key positions in society.
According to him, meeting people who are influential in society greatly influenced him to go back to school.
Mr Banda said some of his lecturers were students at the time he was working as a security guard.
He said interacting with lecturers was what made him to reach his full potential.
Mr Banda said he did not regard his age as a hindrance to forge ahead and achieve his dream.
“Education is a life of learning. Even when one becomes old they should not be discouraged as education starts from birth to the grave.
“No one is too old to learn and it should be taken as a hobby and part of every one’s life,” he said.
He expressed gratitude to UNZA for introducing the Distance Learning Programes, which are flexible, and made him complete his degree programme this year without leaving his job.
“The contact hours during residential school provided me with educational access even when I was not enrolled at campus,” Mr Banda said.
He now appreciates the help and support from his colleagues, some of whom are still working as security officers at the institution.
“I would not have managed to complete my programme if it was not for my work mates who gave me time to study during working hours,” he says.
Mr Banda, who is on teaching practice, will be graduating this year.
In future he wants to study for a masters degree and later a PHD.
He also extends his gratitude to the staff development office at the learning institution and promises to deliver to their expectations.