Laureation address: Clement Mubanga Chileshe

Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws
Laureation by Professor Verity Brown, School of Psychology and Neuroscience

Wednesday 21 June 2017

Vice-Chancellor, it is my privilege to present for the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, Clement Mubanga Chileshe.

Clement is the Director of the Olympic Youth Development Centre in Zambia and the Vice-Board Chairperson of the Special Olympics, Zambia. He is also the Founder and President of the Zambian NGO, Sport in Action.

I met Clement in Lusaka last summer at the offices of Sport in Action. ‘Offices’ sounds rather grand: in fact, Sport in Action occupies both of two basic rooms in a small building. However, I was quickly to discover that this non-flashy organisation with 26 employees was supporting a project of major impact and significance. The first tell-tale signs were the photographs on the wall – including, for example, former UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon, former US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and numerous other well-known sports people and celebrities.

Clement had conceived Sport in Action with the aim to improve the quality of the lives of young people in Zambia through the vehicle of sport and recreational activities. Over the last 20 years, Sport in Action has engaged over 100,000 young people in schools and communities; trained over 1,000 volunteers and peer-leaders; and built sports facilities in numerous schools and community centres.

Sport in Action is currently running projects funded by Save the Children; World Vision; the governments of Sweden, Norway, and South Africa; and FIFA. Over the next few years, these projects will reach many more thousands of children – including specifically more than 25,000 Lusaka girls – to encourage participation in sport; provide comprehensive sex education; education about life skills and healthy living; and address gender-based violence. The ultimate aim is to improve the quality of life of young people in a country ravaged by HIV/AIDS, poverty, crime and unemployment.

It is the remarkable reach of these projects that had grabbed the attention of visiting dignitaries and world leaders in politics and sport.

The reach of Clement’s inspiration has extended well beyond Zambia – indeed, to the young people of St Andrews and to our students. In 2004, Clement initiated and organised Zambia’s first National Conference on Sport for Development and Physical Education. The conference led to a partnership now involving UK Sport and seven UK universities – including the University of St Andrews. In 2009, our Director of Sport, Stephen Stewart, and Clement established a dual-focus project, based in Lusaka and in a rural district, outside the capital, at Kazemba School. This project has been transformational, not just for the young people of Lusaka and Kazemba, but also for our many staff and students who have travelled to Zambia to spend six weeks with Sport in Action at a wide variety of sites across the city, with activities ranging from playing football at the Fountain of Hope Orphanage, science projects in at Kazemba School, or supporting tomorrow’s elite athletes in training at the Olympic Youth Development Centre.

Clement has been the Director of the Olympic Youth Development Centre since it opened in 2010. He wrote the operational business plan and was involved in the design and construction of the Centre, which now welcomes upward of 600 young people a day. In the kitchens, cooks work from early morning to provide a nutritious meal for hundreds of children. The sports coaches refer children to the on-site health centre. The Centre also offers educational programmes to promote good citizenship and the values of Olympism to young people, as well as their teachers and coaches. A strategic decision was made to focus elite coaching on a small number of sports, for example judo and beach volleyball, with the aim being to put young athletes onto an Olympic podium as inspiring role models. Although medals remain elusive, Zambia now has a growing number of international sportspeople.

Clement has a Masters in Sports Management from the Université Claude Bernard Lyon, France, and regularly presents papers at international conferences. He has worked as consultant for national and international organisations and governments in Africa, North America, the Caribbean and Europe.

Clement lists as a recreational activity ‘keeping ostrich and zebra’. I don't know if it never occured to him to have sheep, but perhaps he didn't like the idea of the competition. But the ostrich and the zebra - and in fact I learnt recently that he also keep mackerel and bream in his pond - these are another example of his entrepreneurial selflessness: he uses his own home and garden in imaginative ways to generate funds to continue the work of Sport in Action and the projects at the Olympic Youth Development Centre. Perhaps you can ask him later about the plans for his menagerie.

For over 20 years, Clement Chileshe has been one of Zambia’s most high profile sports champions, making regular media appearances, promoting the potential for sport to contribute to positive life experiences for young people, whatever their level of sporting talent.

Therefore, Vice-Chancellor, in recognition of his major contribution to the enhancement of the quality of life of young people through sport, I invite you to confer the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, on Clement Mubanga Chileshe.

Response from Dr Clement Mubanga Chileshe

Thank you very much, Professor Verity Brown, Professor Mapstone, and the Senate. Where I come from, we usually make a long list of names and the like before we begin to talk, but my good friend and brother, Steven Stewart, told me if I do that immediately, I will be going back home on foot, so I’m not going to do that. But I would love to say thank you very much for this great honour that you, the Senate, and the wonderful staff of St Andrews have given me, and the love has been wonderful. I would love also to thank my family and friends, some of whom have travelled long to be with me on this special occasion. And I would love to say, for you my friends graduating today, go out and face the challenges with great courage.

In my primary and secondary, I struggled, failed repeatedly, until I taught at university. One of my former secondary teachers told me I would never go anywhere, and of course when I resigned 20 years ago from the government to form Sport in Action to change young people’s lives through sport, it took over two years without funding, so I struggled. I could only put one meal on my table per day. But I soldiered on, and today Sport in Action is one of the most influential NGOs in Africa. So always face your life’s challenges with utmost courage, and be brave. As I’ve learnt from working with disabled athletes, no matter your ability or disability, just go and be brave at the attempt of reaching your goals.

God bless St Andrews. Thank you.