Meet Overtone: The Man behind the Malawi’s First Mikrocopter

Seeing a person with albinism in Malawi owning and driving a car in those days used to attract strange attention. However, this time around, it is not even a case worthy debating, as more persons with disabilities are fulfilling their dreams of doing well in life. Despite many challenges persons with disabilities in the world face, there are some who have excelled in socio-economic life. One of such success stories is a member of the Faculty of Environmental Science at the University of Livingstonia, Overstone Mkwapatira Kondowe.

He is an earth scientist with research interest in Geographic Information System (GIS) and Remote Sensing (RS) technology. He is the man behind the first Mikrocopter / Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) in Malawi.

He recently won the Livingstone bicentenary scholarship from the Scottish Government and UNILIA USA foundation to study Masters of Science in Environmental Protection and Management (MSc EPM) at the Polytechnic Constituent College of the University of Malawi.

After successfully passing through the doors of Domasi College and Chancellor College where he obtained his Diploma and Bachelors of Earth Science with credit respectively, Kondowe has previously worked as a secondary school teacher and research assistant in various institutions. He then picked up a job with the University of Livingstonia in order to accomplish his dreams.

Born with albinism in the family of subsistence farmers of the lakeshore district of Nkhota-kota in December 1978 was perceived to be both a curse and blessing to the scholar and the society at large. His deceased mother, Martha Kondowe, was surprised by nature for having a baby with non-pigmented skin. Due to lack of awareness and sensitization, both the family and community around offered no substantial explanation to the phenomenon of albinism in their midst. The family became a laughing stock. Interestingly, due to fear of unknown, his father changed his drinking habits and started companying Martha in doors as she could hardly persevere people’s scorn.

Besides, the visual power of the boy was low even to manage reading on chalkboard within a range of one metre. Had it been that there were no remedial lessons at home and help from classmates, chances are that the boy would not progress with his academic. In fact, besides showing inborn leadership skills, Overstone was also routinely on top of his classmates in terms performance.

When he reached secondary school, in Form One, he was appointed prefect and member of the then popular MBC school program top of the class. He finished his secondary education by passing the Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) exams with the highest grades.

He went to train as an electrical Engineer, then later as a secondary school teacher at Domasi College of Education where he passed the Diploma exams with credit. Overstone proved beyond limits as best geography and computer teacher at various government secondary schools in the Central Eastern Education Division. Unsatisfied, he went through the doors of the University of Malawi, Chancellor College, where he obtained an earth science degree with credit again. Thereafter, he was admitted in the field of research for the University of Malawi where he worked at the Centre For Social Research (CFR) and the National Statistics Office (NSO). 

In 2010, he got a job with the University of Livingstonia as a staff associate. He made numerous contributions to the college, including participating on the development of the current five year strategic plan of the college; the earth displacement detection project; the mining technology curriculum; and the UNILIA / Copperbelt University partnership; just t mention a few. He teaches earth and environmental sciences.

A master’s degree is a requirement for a lecturer this is why around June this year Overstone was one of the three lucky students at the Polytechnic to be awarded the Livingstone Bicentenary Scholarship from the Scottish Government. As this was not enough he was also awarded another scholarship from USA UNILIA foundation.

He has much interest in Geographic Information Science (GIS) and Remote Sensing (RS). In his thesis he intends to demonstrate the use of his self constructed Micro kopter / Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) in water point mapping.

Overstone is blessed with a handsome boy, named Promise, who is seven years old. However, he confesses that one of the most distressing challenges he has faced so far as a person with disability is discrimination by the woman he married which led to their separation in 2007.