6 December 2012

Zambia: World Vision Aids Rufunsa Pupils' Dream Through School Project

DESPITE living in an area with one of the highest school drop-out rates, 13-year-old Namuchana Malumo has qualified to Grade Eight at Mwachilele Basic School in Rufunsa District of Lusaka Province.

Her aspiration of pursuing journalism after completing secondary school education has been brought closer to home, through World Vision Zambia (WVZ), which has constructed a school in the area.

WVZ has built a one-by-three classroom block, four teachers' houses and 23 bore-holes dotted around the community, and a dip tank all valued at about K2 billion.

Namuchana, however, has ideas of how she will use her extra time to study hard and join the debate club, in order to brighten her chances of entering the school of journalism.

"I intend to ask one of the teachers to help me improve on my reading and writing skills, so that I can become a journalist," the visibly elated Namuchana said.

Millennium Development Goals (MDG's) number two entails that Zambia should seek to attain universal education by 2015 by ensuring that both boys and girls complete the full course of primary school.

It is against this background that, WVZ has partnered with the Government to translate this goal into a reality.

According to school headteacher Kelly Munkombwe, prior to the construction of the new classroom block, school enrolments at Grade one, was unable to meet the increased demand for primary education, due to its limited capacity.

For instance, in 2011, the number of eligible children for Grade One enrolment was 105, but only 45 were taken on due to limited space and capacity.

Mr Munkombwe said the shortage of teachers' houses is affecting teaching in various ways such as reduced hours.

"Teaching hours which were initially reduced due to the lack of inadequate classrooms which sometimes forced teachers to combine two grades in one session is now history", Mr Munkombwe said.

The newly-constructed classroom block has increased Grade One enrolment from 45 in 2011 to 90 in 2012.

However, Mr Munkombwe said teenage pregnancies and early marriages were still a challenge despite the increase in school enrolments at Grade One.

During the first term of this academic year, a total of 33 pupils dropped out due to pregnancies and early marriages despite a policy which allows pregnant girls to attend classes and also return after giving birth.

"We have recorded a total of 13 girls who were married off, while seven of them dropped out owing to pregnancies, leaving only one pregnant pupil who opted to write her Grade Seven examinations," Mr Munkombwe said.

Mr Munkombwe said 20 other pupils dropped out of school out of their own free will, with support from their parents.

It is figures such as these coming from Mwachilele Basic School that are worrying Government, whose efforts of attaining the much-desired education for all, is threatened.

Against this backdrop, Rufunsa district Commissioner Paul Kasongo has called on parents to encourage their children to go to school.

Mr Kasongo cautioned parents against marrying off their girl- children when they were still attending school.

He warned that all proven cases of parents and guardians marrying off their children would be dealt with in accordance with the laws of the land.

"In our days, every child was an adult's responsibility, no responsible adult would just sit back and watch a child abscond from school without taking action. In fact, teachers were the ones who ensured that they confronted the guardians of such children to find out why their children were not going to school," he said.

He said the abolished corporal punishment was one of the effective tools in ensuring that children attained education.

Mr Kasongo, however, implored the community in Mwachilele to encourage their children to attend classes by explaining to them the benefits of education.

Commenting on the handover by WVZ to Mwachilele community, Mr Kasongo thanked WVZ for partnering with Government to ensure that more children are enrolled at the school.

Mr Kasongo said the construction of the new classroom block has improved the pupil-desk ratio from the initial one to three to one to two pupils.

"The construction of the staff houses has also helped to improve the house to staff ratio from one to two, to one to one, which has brought sanity in the working environment of the teachers who were sharing houses, while in some extreme cases, some were even forced to sleep in classrooms, depriving pupils of their learning space," he explained.

The infrastructure development at the school has motivated staff and is contributing to improved quality of delivery of education.

"This is one of government's vision's to provide education to each and every child in the nation, hence its move to scrap out user fees in primary school, in order to allow every child an opportunity to attain at least basic school education", Mr Kasongo added.

The handover of a community dip tank by WVZ is also in line with Cabinet's approval of a far-reaching strategy to improve livestock management in the country.

The focus of this strategy is to increase the working knowledge of subsistence and emerging commercial farmers on animal husbandry, ultimately improving livestock health through reduced diseases and mortality, thereby increasing the asset base of livestock farmers.

WVZ, in collaboration with the department of water affairs has also trained pump minders who were able to repair seven broken down boreholes, thereby bringing safe and clean water as close as possible to more than 40 households.

Government' s vision is to see a community with reduced mortality in relation to diarrhoeal diseases, which are a leading cause of deaths in many communities in the country.

These efforts by WVZ in Mwachilele to drill 23 boreholes has greatly improved water accessibility in the community, among the 3, 312 community members, while some community members have also benefited through skills training on the handling of the mechanised hand pump, which has a total of 20 water points.

WVZ national director Michael Veitenhans said the organisation's contribution to Mwachilele community, are part of the efforts to ensure improved livelihoods in communities.

Mr Veitenhans, in a speech read for him by WVZ central manager Dimuna Mwanza, said the organisation would be delighted to note that in a few years, all the skills trainings, and infrastructure donated to Mwachilele would have been used for the betterment of the community at large, contributing to the development of the nation.

H e also echoed sentiments raised by the Government, by imploring parents to enroll their children in schools in order for them to acquire the relevant education and ultimately make a contribution to the development of the community.

Provincial veterinary officer for Lusaka Fewstar Chikoondo reiterated Government's commitment to partner with organisations that seek to boost agriculture and livestock production in the country.

Dr Chikoondo explained that the Zambian Government has identified livestock and agriculture as a critical sector in poverty allevation.

He commended WVZ for the donation of a dip tank to the community, and emphasised that the success of the agricultural sector was largely dependent on animal draught power, which was being threatened by increased animal diseases.

"The dip tank will significantly contribute to the mitigation of tick-borne diseases, which will ultimately translate into poverty reduction, trough agricultural diversification in rearing different livestock animals," he said.

One of the community members Chris Malunga implored WVZ to extend its gesture to other needy areas such as the health centre, which he explained was in dire need of a maternity ward, and staff houses.

It is evident that despite the many challenges, the education sector in Rufunsa may be faced with, efforts such as those by WVZ will go a long way in nurturing the educational needs of pupils like Namuchana in order for her to pursue her dream career in journalism.

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