By Annastazia Ng’ambi
JOSEPH Banda (not real name), a determined Zambian student, was hit with a financial aid cancellation early last year, while studying at Northwestern University in Doha, Qatar.
He did not know where to turn to for help or at least consultation.
Joseph thought of heading to the ‘Zambian Embassy’ in Doha where a disheartening reality struck him – there is no Zambian Embassy in Doha.
Stranded and out of options, Joseph’s education journey was thrown into jeopardy.
“Having an embassy at this moment was more than necessary for me because it would have offered guidance on alternative funding options and connected me with relevant resources, such as scholarships and educational programmes,” Joseph says, in an interview.
“If the embassy would have stepped in to assist in negotiations with the institution and been able to provide advice on what to do in circumstances like these, the situation would have been very different.”
Had his financial aid not been cancelled in March 2022, Joseph would have been wearing a graduation gown next month this year.
Financial aid cancellation for him was triggered by his father’s retirement from employment, a development that made the finance aid office to regard Joseph as vulnerable, where his education financial contributions were concerned.
He was consequently sent home by authorities at the university.
Joseph notes that not having a Zambian Embassy in Qatar to run to or not knowing any nearest Zambian Embassy in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that could be utilised affected how he dealt with the challenges in the past as a student.
“Having a representative in the country where you are visiting or attending school is more than required and would be quite beneficial,” says Joseph.
The Zambian community in Qatar has now coordinated itself to form a country executive that will officially link it to the nearest Zambian Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The idea of the country executive was birthed when Zambia’s Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Duncan Mulima tasked Zambians living in Qatar to set up such an organ.
Mulima was sworn-in by President Hakainde Hichilema as Ambassador to Saudi Arabia on May 6, 2022.
During his recent visit to Doha, Mulima held a meeting where he said the people in Qatar that will be part of the executive board will represent the Zambian Embassy in Riyadh and that they will be a channel of communication between Zambian citizens living in Qatar and the Zambian Embassy in Riyadh.
“As Zambians abroad, we are all ambassadors for Zambia and our new government is interested and committed to bringing good governance to Zambians, and even when we live abroad, we continue to be a part of the country,” said Mulima.
Meanwhile, Sakapaji Karl, a Zambian working in the oil and gas industry in Qatar, said the formation of an executive committee that will represent Zambians living in Qatar will relieve the Zambian community from feeling isolated and unsupported.
He indicated that many were left wondering what would happen if they found themselves in an emergency situation or needed help with paperwork or legal issues.
“This will be something of the past,” said Karl.
“I have lived in three different countries outside of Zambia, and I have always felt that the Zambian community is very supportive and that support only comes if we know each other and forming an executive is a great way to be able to effectively support one another.”
Mulima’s meeting was attended by a cross-section of Zambians living in Qatar, including business people, students, and professionals.
Many expressed their commitment to promoting Zambia’s interests abroad and pledged to work with the Zambia Embassy in Riyadh to achieve that goal.
The community hopes that the executive committee and the policy will help to guide the activities and foster cooperation with the Embassy in Riyadh.
Kalemba April 8, 2023