The first Zambian Registered nurse of any gender was Mrs Kapelwa Mwanang’umbi Sikota.
Mrs Sikota was born in Mongu District on 7th July 1928. She obtained her primary school education at Lukona Mission and Mabumbu Girls Boarding schools in Western Province after which she proceeded to Chipembi Girls Boarding School for her Standard VI, which was the highest level of education a girl could attain in Northern Rhodesia. For secondary education, she went to Indent Mission School near Durban in South Africa. After completing her secondary education, she enrolled for training as a Registered Nurse at McCord Zulu Hospital in Durban. She successfully completed her training as a Registered Nurse in 1951 and was honoured with the award of the Best Nurse of the Year. She later enrolled for midwifery training which she completed in 1952.
Immediately after completion of her midwifery training, she returned home to Northern Rhodesia.
Upon her return to Northern Rhodesia she was immediately employed as Lusaka Central Hospital now (UTH) where she became the first African state registered nurse in then Northern Rhodesia and now Zambia. Later she was employed at Roan Antelope Mine Hospital in Luanshya as the first Africa nurse upto 1961, when she moved back to Lusaka Central Hospital now (UTH).
The white community was at first uncomfortable with having to deal with a black woman surpervisor but later accepted her skills and ability eventually becoming a darling of both the black and white communities.
Being the first registered African nurse in Northern Rhodesia there were no conditions of service for Africans and there was no union.
She fought a lone hard battle to be put on the same salary scale as her white colleagues with similar qualifications.
She faced a lot of discrimination at work but she fought for her rights and that of other African health workers basic issues like using the same canteen and social facilities whites were using were some of the lone battles she had to fight.
Her fight for equality was taken even to the House of Commons and on November 29, 1960 Mr. John Stonehouse MP, raised her issue and asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies “whether he is aware that Mrs. Kapelwa Sikota, a qualified State-registered nurse, is unable to obtain employment in this capacity with the mining companies of Northern Rhodesia because of discrimination; and whether he will take steps to deal with the situation.”
Mr. Iain Macleod the Secretary of State for the Colonies responded, “I am informed that Mrs. Sikota has been employed for the past three years by a mining company as supervisor of a hostel for African trainee nurses. As the hon. Member will be aware, the mining industry has recently announced an agreement whereby all jobs will be open to persons of all races. I have no reason to think that Mrs. Sikota is being debarred from any post through discrimination.”
She was however being discriminated against and made to be matron for a hostel rather than a State Registered nurse. This however changed soon after the issue was highlighted in the House of Commons and Mrs. Sikota opened the way for the African nurses who were to follow her.
Because of the competence and determination to fight for her rights and that of other workers she soon found that the same people who tried to suppress her, started to admire and recognise her talents.
On November 1, 1964 she was promoted to the rank of sister in charge at the UTH, again the first African in that position. Mrs Sikota worked in different nursing and midwifery portfolios until she became the Chief Nursing Officer at the Ministry of Health. Again the first African to hold that key position.She was instrumental in planning and putting up some of the first modern facilities that we see at the UTH today.
In 1974 she relinguished her position as chief nursing officer at The Ministry of Health to accompany her husband to France where he took up a diplomatic posting.
As Chief Nursing Officer, she encouraged Nurses of all categories to develop and further their education and acquire new skills by taking extra courses provided by both the Government of the Republic of Zambia, foreign Governments and Organisations.