By Uzma Balkiss Sulaiman en route to Lusaka
“Where does Balkiss come from?”, asks the man at the check-in counter for Ethiopian Airlines at Heathrow. He is, of course, referring to my middle name. “Oh, it’s my grandmother’s name, it’s from Yemen,” I respond. “Oh no”, he interjects, “It’s actually from Ethiopia. It was one of the names of the Queen of Sheba who ruled Ethiopia and Yemen. It’s a beautiful name.”
I was impressed. I know it is a name rich with history, but that was one of the very few times my middle name hasn’t been mangled and mispronounced. I take this as a good omen for the week ahead.
I am on my way to Lusaka, flying via Addis Ababa, to see first-hand the impact of our radios in the Learning at Taonga Market radio-distance education programme we’ve been involved with for over a decade. This is one of many firsts for me: It’s the first time I’ve visited Zambia; seen our solar and wind-up radios in action; or been to sub-Saharan Africa for that matter.
I’m looking forward to visiting Zambia. I have heard a lot about the country from friends who have visited, but nothing compares to experiencing it with your own eyes. The weather is an obvious plus, as it is rainy season so you get that mixture of sun and the cool breeze after it rains. In addition, I’m relishing being away from the London weather.
However, the most important part of my trip are the children our radios are supporting. I’ve tested our solar and wind-up Prime radios, but nothing will compare to seeing them being used for the large classroom lessons they are designed for.
The Learning at Taonga Market programme – initiated by Zambia’s Ministry of Education – benefits hundreds of thousands of children who are unable to attend formal school, as well as supporting government classrooms. We are now introducing our Prime radios into Zambia, helping to ensure that these children will have access to an education and, more importantly, a brighter future.
Hopefully my good omen in London will last for my entire stay.