Mentorship in PBL – Lessons from the Sustainable Solid Waste Student Challenge in Zambia


Text and photos: Kamuti Mulonda, Lecturer from University of Zambia

I was the main mentor for students from the University of Zambia involved in the Sustainable Solid Waste student challenge.


The students involved came from two universities in Zambia (UNZA and Mulungushi) and HAMK university from Finland. We also had mentors from each university, making it a multicultural and multidisciplinary team. In total, over 30 students participated in the challenge that was divided into three groups for active participation. The groups were Plastics, Aluminum and Ownership and Legal Issues associated with solid waste managements.


Waste pickers sorting out waste at landfill


With the establishment of groups, the next step was to guide the students in their respective group roles, giving them the autonomy to share responsibilities, setting goals and objectives as well as coming up with a timeline of activities to performed. It took a while for students to harmonize their works across the three universities, but once the roles were clear the collaboration become straightforward.


The student challenge activities were in three main overlapping phases;

  • formulation of key goals/objectives

  • Collection of information from valid sources and institutions

  • Field visit and reporting


Once the students had set their goals, the last two activities were critical focal points for me as mentor. Its the beginning of logistical planning and scheduling with other stakeholders mainly the local authorities at Lusaka City Council’s Solid Waste Management Unit as well as local mentor from Mulungushi University so as to have combined field days for all students. The local authority, also have to put the escort team ready and arrange for interactions with students. The first interaction was at the Lusaka City Council Offices were the students were taken through the Solid waste management system, including legal, financing and existing challenges. More institutional documents were shared with students, including maps and history of the Chunga landfill. The second interaction involved the actual visit to the city incineration unit and the Chunga landfill were students toured the facility observing the various aspects of Solid waste management at site, from weigh bridge through waste picking by pickers to compaction and finally leachate ponds.


The third and last interaction involved a visit to a plastic recycling company (M and F Manufacturing Company). Here, the students were taken through the recycling process from cleaning and conditioning of plastics waste to convention into granule and finally into various plastic products using various processing equipment.


Leachate pond at Chunga Landfill in Lusaka


From the mentorship point of view, the challenge brought out key PBL implementation steps that can only be appreciated through experience and has integrated the problem solving approach with many stakeholders.