Lessons from encounters with Prof Rubadiri—Part II



e continue from where we left last week as we discuss 10 lessons that I learnt from my encounters with the late Professor David Rubadiri who was laid to rest last weekend.

Last week, we discussed the three things you need to always remember when on international travel. Today, we will discuss the power of alignment, finding positive in negative situations and never breaking the camel that carries your message.


  1. Power of alignment – briefing and debriefing meetings

Every time we landed in a new country, Professor Rubadiri would invite us all to a planning and review meeting. We would spend some two hours or so organising ideas on what we want to learn from the specific university. We would start with a recap of our previous stop and then delve into what we need to learn. Learning has to be organised and focused. You cannot just learn without planning what you want to learn. In addition, I think Prof Rubadiri wanted us to approach any new university as a united team. Even at the end of any single tour, he made sure that we had a de-briefing meeting where we were exchanging notes on what we had each learnt and then banking them into a repository of records of our lessons.


  1. Finding positive in negative situations

At one stage, the Polytechnic Academic Staff Union staged a strike by withdrawing their labour. We spent about two weeks without lectures on the campus. Many meetings between Pasco leaders and university leaders as well as Ministry of Education were not yielding results. One day, the then college principal Henry Chibwana called me to his office. He told me that the vice-chancellor wanted to hold a one-to-one meeting with me in his (the principal’s) office. In that meeting, Prof Rubadiri told me that they had exhausted all efforts and meetings to try and convince the lecturers to restart teaching. He said their last hope was in me as Polytechnic Students Union (PSU) president to persuade Pasco leadership to change their position for the sake of our education. At that stage, I had a gentleman’s agreement with the Polytechnic Academic Staff Union president Professor James Kamwachale Khomba that the lecturers would never interfere with our protests and neither would we interfere with their interests. In fact, we agreed to reinforce each other’s fights. I had to keep to that agreement. In that spirit, I told the vice-chancellor that I believed in the fight by the lecturers because their salaries were low. In fact, at that time, only selected lecturers could even afford to buy or manage a car. I told him that as a student, my role models were lecturers but their state of affairs was not that attractive for career after graduation. Professor Rubadiri was shocked with my answer but he respected my honesty and sincerity. I later learnt from other people around his circles that at that meeting, Rubadiri formed a strong and positive view of me while I had thought that my going against his request would make him reduce his measure of me. He was able to find positive in this very negative situation.


  1. Don’t break the camel that carries your message

We had a big meeting at the Great Hall, Chancellor College, where the then Finance Minister wanted to meet all the student union leaders from all the five constituent colleges. It was a highly heated meeting. At some stage, as Prof Rubadiri was making a point to the minister, trying to persuade the minister to meet midway with the students, the students in the hall were vocally cheering Rubadiri. He turned to the students and said: “Never break the back of the camel that is carrying your message.”

Immediately, everyone was silenced. This is just one of the dozens of the one line statements that Rubadiri would make to manage very complicated situations. Since then, I always mind about the ‘courier’ of my messages.

I mind about and care for my ‘ambassadors’ because without them, I may not convey my messages to people that may not listen to me directly. n

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