19 January 2013

Zambia: Nkwazi Rotary Club Rolls Out Education Dream to Mango Groove

IN Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia, about two kilometers away from the Great East Road in Munali Constituency is a reality of an astonishing school life.

This is what has come to be known as Mango Groove Community School, deriving its name from a Mango tree under which the first lessons were conducted before some poorly constructed makeshift classrooms were put up.

At this school, which accommodates more than 260 pupils, vulnerability is so eminent among young children struggling to get a fair share of literacy from a few available teachers who have volunteered to help them out after realising their dreams for years now.

In its early stages, children used to sit on the bare ground or indeed found some 'comfort' on stacks of bricks as they took instructions from their teachers who had a black board propped up on the same Mango tree!

It is unthinkable but this has been the reality of life in this part of town and rare interest coupled with passion that prompted community efforts to put up the shoddy structures as classrooms to champion a way through to literacy in a more 'decent' but hard and unsafe way.

The health aspect of the children cannot just go unquestioned as these classrooms that are still being used do not even have a floor, thereby making the emission of dry-cough-causing dust a reality.

Yes, one would call this shaky resemblance of roofing materials and slapdash walls standing on bare ground as classrooms as there has been nothing close to a standard and safe structure to compare with.

Without recording a calamity, all seems well for both the teachers and children who are learning in these classrooms though under the Safety Act, these structures would have been pulled down.

These classrooms are just about one-and-a-half metres high, causing some spin of wonder on how the volunteer class teachers withstand the heat which is remitted from the iron sheets just about 60 centimetres or even less above their heads.

One would wonder why these volunteer educationists would endure such harsh conditions when they are not even on a Government payroll!

The missing piece of this puzzle is evidently clear as desires and great ambitions would be seen spilling out of these children's eyes despite poverty looming among them.

"I just want to be a teacher because the foundation of development in a country is education... in fact I just love teaching," said one of the ambitious girls standing next to her school head teacher.

It is as if these children rightfully know that poverty which has forced them to attend class without uniforms and bare feet is temporary as long as they acquire an education.

It is a dream they and their teachers would not allow to die, it seems.

Recently, the Rotary Club of Nkwazi saw the quest for education in this community amid squalid conditions.

As a voluntary club, they saw the need of contributing to the welfare of the school to better the shortcomings of these children by donating 55 new desks and learning materials in form of exercise books to last each child the whole term.

Rotary Club past president, who is also director of service projects, Masautso Nyanthando made the donation on behalf of the club.

Mr Nyanthando said he and the club value education a lot and that the donation was meant to supplement Government's efforts in providing quality education to all, especially those in need.

"The Rotary Club has seen presidents, ministers, doctors and teachers in you... so that is why we are here to give confidence in you with this donation.

"This is just the beginning as we pledge to continue coming in to help from time to time," he said.

He said the club is at the Mango Groove to stay as it will continue bringing different projects to the school so as to ensure that the standards of the school are uplifted. Education is the only key for unlocking the potential of these children's future, he noted.

Simon Bota, the Rotary past president and director of public relations, said the club was carrying out its mandate as enshrined in the motto 'Service above self' to go in the community to identify people in need.

"We were that needy at some point and that is what drives us to also assist because we grew up being assisted too," he said.

The 32-year-old Judith Lengwe is the head teacher of this school and says she possesses a special grace within her that makes her see a bright future in these children than what meets an ordinary eye.

She is a happy head teacher to receive a donation from the Rotary Club and says it is uplifting to see donors come through to change the face of the school with valuable contributions such as desks and books to motivate the children.

"As teachers, we look at these children with a special belief that this is not the way they will be living a few years to come," she said.

Ms Lengwe said the pupils who are mostly orphaned or living with single parents received some support from World Vision Zambia some time back that included a feeding programme for the children.

World Vision Zambia identified this desire some time ago and stepped in to help upgrade the school infrastructure and motivate the teachers financially.

For now, World Vision Zambia has since pulled out and most of that donation that has managed to sustain the school has come through the American government.

So far, a one-by-three classroom block has been well and professionally put up though it is too small to accommodate the ever increasing number of pupils overshooting 260 in number.

This is why the other scantily built structures are still in use despite being a vivid danger to both the children and the teachers.

Ms Lengwe believes that what she and other teachers are doing in the lives of these children will soon bear fruit as some of the ambitious children coming from that background will one day be eminent personalities in society to just be an answer to the limp of the school.

Despite all these challenges, the school has been producing remarkable results at Grade Seven level.

"Last year, we had 99 per cent of children making it into Grade Eight out of 21 children who sat for the exam, only one failed," she said.

After all this, Ms Lengwe still has some appeals to make to the Government and other well-wishers:

"We really want text books from Government for our pupils and motivation from the members of staff through being put on the Government payroll."

The issue of more classrooms is obvious as she said the school only safely accommodates less than half the number of pupils in the well-constructed classrooms.

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