Day 7 - Natemwa Part 2 and Nayamba School

The plan for the morning was to join the children for assembly. Awoken by the cockerel, then eating a hearty bowl of porridge, we watched out the window as the children headed into school. We met them at 08:00 for morning assembly, where we enjoyed some songs and the Zambian national anthem played on the recorder. After assembly, we had the opportunity to hand out some donated caps to all the boys, as the girls had received hair clips on the previous visit. The joyous looks on their faces warmed my heart, as we took some photos to send back to the donor as some thanks for their kindness. We then visited each classroom testing the children on what they had been learning the previous day and giving the grade 7’s some encouragement for their up-and-coming exams.

Our time at Natemwa has come to an end. I was very sorry to see it go and wished I could help this caring community more there and then. However, we still had much to look forward to, most notably Nayamba school, the last project we’d visit and of course the journey in the back of the truck again. Although in the same geographic area, Naymaba exists much closer to civilisation than Natemwa. The school hosts 323 students and is more developed in comparison.

As we arrived, this distinction became more evident, the younger children were excited to see us, but the older students were used to seeing unfamiliar faces. Each project location we visited gave off different vibes to one another, each creating its own personality. Nayamba was no different as we were directed to the new block which was built over the last couple of years. Prior to this, the school day had to be split into two to account for all of the classes. We were greeted with the pre-school class who were celebrating one of their classmate’s birthday with some dancing to the music player. Being closer to the main road, Nayamba is fortunate enough to have a transformer for electricity. This adds an entirely different dynamic, as lessons can be more interactive, and further building works can manipulate the use of power tools.

Leaving the classroom, we settled in a room where will would set up the usual interactions with parents and students. Meanwhile myself and Kathy journeyed the length of the school getting a better insight into its development. This was exceptionally useful for Kathy to develop ideas for Natemwa. Approaching the sanitation block, which was under development, Kathy spoke of the minimal number of ablutions currently at Natemwa, and the need for more toilets as the student numbers rise. We critiqued the block and enquired about price as an idea for future fundraising. $5000 to build two blocks of five long drop toilets, with sinks etc, a price very small for a potentially huge impact.

At this point, we had found ourselves in grade 3, where we had taken over the classroom with our face drawing task we came up with. Earlier in the month, we had taken paper with a face outline to the Court Lane Junior School Summer Fair in the UK, folded the paper in half, and get children to draw on half of the face. The plan was to then take the half filled in faces to Zambia to get some children at one of the schools to fill in the other side and join them together. And here we were a few weeks later and it was happening. Once the drawings were completed, the children opened the page. Many of the children were in hysterics at the abominations (in a good way) that both very different sides of the face had created.

With the team content with everything achieved, we had time to quickly check Nayamba’s feeding programme before heading off. They were using a mix of two different programmes, the one used at Natemwa and HEPS, a soya based programme, both achieving similar results. Goodbyes were said to the staff and we began the journey home, but not before stopping off at the local Department of Education. Like that of many countries, the views on the government in Zambia tend to drift one of two ways. Many recognise President Lungu’s important focus on educational developments, but others are concerned at his dictator-like politics. Hearing the daily news on the radio, it certainly seemed the latter was more prevalent, although I would encourage anyone to look further into it before making a sound judgement. The relevance was that privately funded Community schools like Natemwa are often under threat of being taken over by the government system, which has shown weaknesses. This was certainly something which, prior to the meeting, they were fairly insistent on, and this would result in replacing Kwabe with a government Head teacher. Not to dawdle too much about politics, but it turned out the new DEBS was very close friends with Martha, and was much more understanding of the situation at Natemwa. So, all was good, but I believe it is important to mention how governments can sometimes slow effective change in developing countries, which is one of the many hurdles charities across the globe have to overcome.

We dropped Kathy back off home, indulged in some sandwiches, switched cars, and finally headed back home. Although it was a two-day trip, it felt like one extended day, so I treated myself to a short nap upon arrival back home.

That’s where the majority of the visit concludes. The last three days are focussed on administrative things, which does not make for good content. I appreciate anyone who had taken their time to read these blogs. As much as it has been a nice way for myself to store some memories.  My intention was to offer a realistic approach to how charities visit project work and take you through my experiences of what each is like. Sometimes there can be a disconnect between the donor and not fully understanding where their money is being used. Hopefully, I have given a little insight into this, in my own quirky way. If there are further questions, hit up the ‘contact us’ page on the Bana Tandizo website, or email me matthew@banatandizo.org. I would appreciate any feedback and enquiries into project work, and even some constructive criticism.

Day 6 - Natemwa Part 1

Monday morning would be the defining moment where all the early nights finally played into my favour. The alarm briskly awoke me at 04:45 and I gathered my things together, which I had packed the previous evening.  Breakfast would have been much too early, so I risked it in favour of a bottle of water, despite knowing the journey to Natemwa would be a long one.

Natemwa Learning Centre, a school located deep in the Zambian bush, teaches around 230 students from pre-school to grade 7 (Ages 6-14). Being in the middle of nowhere, it provides education for students from a number of local villages. The area itself, Chishamba, is primarily a farming district, so often student will walk long distances to the school. The school day typically starts at 7:30, meaning some students leave home before 6:00 to be in attendance.

From what I was told at the time the current vehicle we were riding would struggle with the roads nearer the school.  Fortunately, we were stopping off to pick up Kathy, the administrator at Natemwa, who had the necessary vehicle as well. We transferred vehicles, and to my surprise, Kathy’s truck only had two seats, which meant myself and Martha were going to be sprawled out in the back of the truck with the luggage. The small child in me thought this was both hilarious and was extremely excited at the same time.

The first segment of the journey was completely fine, normal tarmac roads, with either buzzing Lusaka life, or African plains as the backdrop. Then we turned off towards Kachele Village. Fortunately, my entire body only left the rough metallic ground of the truck twice, but I certainly got the sense of feeling like a ragdoll. Regardless, one shouldn’t complain, as the scenery along the roads towards the school was beautiful. Traditional African mud huts with thatched roofs were consistently placed along the sides of the roads. Intermittently there were also entire small villages, with tall grass walls surrounding, giving off the appearance of an iron age settlement. After a rough hour, we arrived at Natemwa.

Breakfast was underway for the children upon arrival. The great Kachele tree, the ancient tree by which the village is named, overlooked the process, like a bird protecting its young within its wing. The feeding programme uses a WHO product ‘Stop the Hunger Now’, providing vital nutrients for growing children, assisting productivity in the classroom, and taking some burden from parents at home.

We then progressed, to the head office, where we briefly spoke with Kwabe, the Head teacher, before receiving the opportunity to chat with parents. Time and time again, each parent raised both the same delights at the progress of the school, but the same desires at the same time. The main desire being the implementation of grades 8 & 9. In Zambia, primary school goes up to grade 7 (most similar to year 9 in England), therefore secondary school starts at grade 8. The nearest school to Natemwa which offers grades 8&9, is a further 40 minutes walk, and in the rainy season in Zambia, rivers form along the only accessible route. By offering grades 8&9 at Natmewa we would be providing an important educational leap (GCSE equivalent) for the student. Obviously, this is impossible without money. The new space for classrooms would cost £15,000 and then teachers’ salaries on top of that. This is something Bana Tandizo wishes to raise funds for in the near future.

                Lunchtime had arrived, and we walked over to Kathy’s mini base of operations when she stayed at the school. After some delightful sandwiches, the discussions continued, this time with the children.  Over lunch we had discussed the possibility of myself taking a football lesson with the children. Midway through the interviews I was invited by Kelvin, grade 3 teacher who usually takes the students for football, to head towards the football pitch. On the way to the field, with all the 31 very eager children following quickly behind me, I rattled my memory of all the football drills my father had taught me growing up which only required one ball. The lack of resources provided a difficult challenge, but after a brief warm up I implemented some simple passing drills, with the focus on the basics: keeping the ball on the ground, looking up before you pass and calling for the ball. After a slow start, the team began getting into the swing of things and I could make the drills slowly more challenging, limiting the number of touches and lengthening the passes. It was great fun and certainly brought back a lot of nostalgia. As we moved into the game, I became frustrated how all this enthusiasm was being limited to the use of one ball, and no basic equipment like cones or bibs. The game came to a close as it was the end of the school day. We chatted for a long time around the fire at Kathy’s camp, before tucking into what was left of then night’s dinner, after a wild dog had helped itself to the meat. More discussion was had and stories told, before heading to bed. I read more of my book under candlelight, before slowly drifting off.

Day 4 & 5 - Weekend

Other than small amounts of work to do regarding media and reporting, the weekend was allocated time off. After asking several local sources and some avid googling we settled on the idea that our weekend would be best fulfilled with a safari visit. A safari name Chaminuka near Lusaka airport was the chosen destination, and with little knowledge of what we were in for, we set off.

 

                  Google maps optimistically assumed arrival within one-and-a-half hours. This became slowly more sceptical when we found ourselves stuck in Kalikiliki. Whether it was the time of day or just how the area typically was, one may have mistaken it for New Delhi, had it not been for the lack of honking from rickshaw. After the suggested route from google maps had taken nearly driven us into a fence, we had the joys of annoying the locals once again by driving back through. Getting back on course we had a comfortable remainder of the journey arriving around midday. 

The safari was 10,000 acres of fenced of plains, containing four manmade lakes. Driving into the main lodging area we came across what looked like a luxury golfing resort, with fine cut grass which had been manicured as much as each of the staff members. We strolled up to the reception where, after a brief business meeting, settled on the day packaged.

                  15 mins later I found myself atop a horse in the middle of a safari. This was one of the last things that I was expecting upon arrival, but the ride was pleasant and gave us a sense of the terrain we would later journey on. However, I couldn’t say the same for my poor horse, whom I felt like I crushed under my weight for the short 15-20-minute ride. 

Upon arrival, back at the main facility, we were invited to lunch, where we had a buffet with the other guests. Morally disturbed by the amount of food that lay in front of us, considering the rest of the weeks proceedings, we made most of the warm weather and rest, knowing that this was one of the few times we had a chance to relax.

                  The game drive began unusually as we were introduced to the fenced off animals first. Lions, cheetahs and jungle cats each had their own area to preserve the herbivores in the rest of the safari, although they did seem almost too isolated. Regardless there was little we could say or do as we whizzed into the main plains of the safari. On our journey, we were greeted by: an elephant, a giraffe, zebra, water hog, water buffalo, impala, monkeys and a host of different antelope species. The ride itself turned out to be one of the most enjoyable parts of the day, with the suns warm rays; the wind gently pressing on our faces and the impressive sense of serenity. 

On arrival back to the lodges, the sun began its journey down past the horizon. We were invited for a small boating adventure along one of the manmade lakes. It was the perfect time of day and I would have been happy to spend the whole evening afloat the lake. The sun glistened off the water and other than the noise of the boat engines, only nature was to be heard.
                  We then fought our way through the bumpy roads in the darkness back home to a cup of tea and forty winks. The forty winks became, twenty, ten then five as I was unwell throughout the night. Fortunately, on my end, we had only a small amount planned for Sunday.

Sunday was a short but fun day, as we were expecting an early start on Monday as well as the personal events from the previous evening. A long chat was had over breakfast, covering much that had happened in the week, before we headed out to a local market near Kalingalinga. The market was swamped with beautiful, hand-crafted local delights, with everything you could imagine on offer. It was as if someone had picked all their favourite things about Zambia and put them in one place. Every colour on the visible light spectrum was to be seen, in the clothes, handmade crafts and jewellery. Looking back, I regret not buying anything, but feeling a bit under the weather still, I wasn’t up for the usual market negotiations. Once we had waded through all the market goodies, we headed for lunch, where we ate the traditional Zambian delicacy of ….. fish and chips.

The rest of the afternoon and evening was calm, other than our attempt at cooking yet another traditional Zambian dish …… a roast dinner. But hey, it was Sunday after all and it would be our last day of rest for the remainder of the visit. Bed beckoned early yet again, around 7:30-8. The sun sets around 6pm this time of year in Zambia, so most nights bedtime felt closer to midnight, especially with the lack of light and noise pollution.

Day 3 - Chishawasha Orphan Home and School

Chishawasha Orphanage was the next stop on our adventure, where we would witness the opening ceremony of an orphan home. House 2 was lacking funding and had become unusable in recent years. Donors of Bana Tandizo had funded for the reopening on the house, allowing 16 more orphans to become residents. Although the house has been in use since its completion in March; the official opening was yet to be done.

                  The journey to the orphanage followed the great north road, one of Zambia’s most used roads stretching across the majority of the country. The orphanage being only a few minutes from the main road, made for a refreshing change to the standard lumps and bumps of the compounds. Pulling into the main gate past the school (Colin B. Glasco School – which is residence under the Chishawasha Orphanage), we pulled up in front of the administration offices for the orphanage. There we were greeted by the head mother as well as Mary the head administrator.

                  Mary hurried us towards the school, where we found the children doing the weekly school clean. The responsibility handed to the children, was something which I has begun to admire, as I became more used to seeing it. The Head teacher, who Mary had briefly introduced us to, was ensuring all the floors had been swept and the tables and chairs neatly tucked away, there was even some polishing of the, now gleaming, wooden dinner tables. As the tour came to an end, not a speck of dust was in sight and the children were all awaiting the once over from the Head teacher.

                  The orphanage itself consists of 7 orphan homes, each containing between 8 and 16 children. Invited into house 5 we were reminded of how far the orphanage had come, and how stable the infrastructure was. The house has a living area, with library; 3 bedrooms with two bunkbeds a piece and open wardrobe for the children’s belongings; both boys and girl’s toilet and shower; and a kitchen. Each house has two mothers, who are responsible for the welfare of the children and cooking. We met the mothers briefly as they were cooking up some Nshima for lunch. It was lovely to see everything in working order and a living space that was so homely.

Heading over to the location of the ceremony, the stage had been set. Martha had outdone herself, as ribbons and balloons were placed ready for the opening, alongside a number of chairs for visitors and snacks for after the main ceremony. The children had even gone out their way to set up a small musical set, containing two keyboards, a music player and microphone.

                  Proceedings were due to begin 14:00 Zambian time, meaning that we finally began around 14:45. Children, mothers and teachers all gathered and it began to feel like everything had come together, despite the house being opened for 4 months already. We began, appropriately, with the Zambian national anthem and a speech and prayer from Bishop Eddy who as chair of the board, made the welcoming speech. Many speeches were to follow accompanied by singing, dancing and other theatrical pieces from the children, like poems; before the ribbon was finally cut by Will and Martha. The dancing was fantastic, the atmosphere was very lively and the children loved to express themselves, embracing that sense of freedom when you let yourself go. I felt honoured that this production had partly been put on for me, but ultimately represented the splendid work of the donors back home, enabling the community to thrive. 

Preparations for official opening of Bana Tandizo orphan house

Preparations for official opening of Bana Tandizo orphan house

Final discussions were had, supplemented by some juice and biscuits which we had brought with us for the children, before heading off. We said our goodbyes to Mary and the other staff members, and begun our journey home knowing that positive change was happening at the orphanage all within a healthy environment. For dinner, we helped ourselves to some knock-off Nandos and rejoiced in the day's work, ready for the chilled weekend.

 

Day 2 - Life Christian School

Panoramic view from inside a classroom at Life Christian School, Mtendere East

Panoramic view from inside a classroom at Life Christian School, Mtendere East

Day two began with the initial surprise of dew atop the grass, something unexpected even for midwinter in Zambia. The plan for day two was to head to a compound called Mtendere, more specifically Mtendere East where the next project, the Life Christian School, was located. The school was developed, because no cheap, effective education existed in the compound. Normally schools charge around 110 Kwatcha per month (£9.56), whereas the Life Christian school intended to and still does charge only 30 Kwatcha per month (£2.61). And it is only capable of this thanks to funding from donors.

iSchool tablets used for lessons

iSchool tablets used for lessons

                  After a 30-minute journey, we arrived at the school, to be met by Emmanuel and Abigail, the school coordinator and headmistress respectively. Abigail toured us around the school, pointing us to the recently decorated classroom walls, full of delightful nuggets of information; as well as the use of the iSchool tablets. The classrooms had a warm environment, with students being awarded with harmonious clapping and singing from their other classmates when a positive contribution was made.

                  The eagerness to learn was evident when we enrolled ourselves in the first lesson of the day. The subject was art, with the focus on a local Zambian artist, Rafael Chilufya; who depicts everyday life in Zambia with oils. The iSchool tablets were at the centre of this lesson as the children could see all of Chilufya’s work in front of them, studying the paintings and the stories behind them.

iSchool lesson projected onto wall

iSchool lesson projected onto wall

The second lesson was Social (Religious) Studies. After the class had recited some of last week’s previous work on Christianity, they began learning about Islam, focussing on the 5 pillars and why people choose to be Islamic. The diversity of the lectures is important to embrace in education everywhere to be able to become global citizens, and despite Islam representing less than 1% of the population, it was interesting to see the children’s fascination with comparing the religions.

                  After this we proceeded to the cosy Staff room, when we meet one-by-one with six different parents, who had kindly given up their time to be questioned about their engagement with the school and how they think we can further help their children. One after another each interview sent us on an emotional rollercoaster. From heart-rending stories about their past and present lives, to intrigue into their children’s work at the school. 

Miriam, mother of Martha in Grade 5 (Age 10) and Martha’s two younger siblings who she cannot afford to put in school, spoke to us about the challenges in keeping her family fed (The food at the school was often the only meal some of the children had each day). After having to leave a previous home in Mazabuka, the family moved to Mtendere in hopes of the mother and father being able to find new work. Unfortunately, work is scarce in Mtendere and neither parents have been successful at finding employment. The family is now being forced out of their home and onto the streets. Despite the challenges, Martha is the top in her class and Miriam is worried that the situation at home will affect her grades.

  This was just one of the six personal experiences that we listened to. All parents were glad that the Life Christian School offered a better alternative to the few other community schools, and hoped more money could be raised to help children in the area be educated from grade one through to university.

                  Finishing up the interviews we wandered to the main school hall, where we were met with a crescendo of voices. All the children sang songs and a few stepped forward to thank us for the work the charity was doing. It was a positive way to end the day, but our minds would rest uneasy wishing we could do more to help the families of the children. The early finish to the day allowed for some positive reflection: seeing the advances made by the school, but knowing more was needed to be done. Night drew close and we rested our heavy eyes for a jam-packed following day at Chishawasha Orphanage.

 

Day 1 - Steve Biko Centre

After your most typical long-haul flight, adopting the usual discomforts and barely tolerable symptoms of travel, followed by, confusions and disorganisation whilst boarding the connecting flight in Kigali, Rwanda; I was met with an overwhelming sense of relief, seeing a typically structed airport in Lusaka. Then greeted, at around midday, with the warm smiles of two Bana Tandizo colleagues, Martha and Will, the adventure began.

Struggling to keep my eyes open, I engulfed as much of my surroundings as possible. The journey was not particularly long, but fatigue had kicked in and sleep was calling. Obtaining a sense of the geography of the area, as well as naturally making comparisons to such places as London, an emitting sense of community was present. Small shack-like shops littered the sides of the newly tarmacked roads, with salespeople and other such vendors surrounding them. The honks of the brightly coloured Zambian Cabs kept my eyes ajar as we passed Bauleni, a compound which would soon become all too familiar.

                  We arrived at the accommodation to three overly excited, barking guard dogs. Quickly, we then proceeded to unpack our suitcases into the allocated rooms, followed with a short, but well needed 30-minute nap.

                  After we discussed the proceedings for the rest of the day, we abruptly put ourselves to work, heading towards the previously mentioned Bauleni Compound. Turning off the tarmac, and now losing sight of the scenic African roads, we entered the walls of the compound. To gain a greater understanding of the culture and living conditions, we first stopped off at the market. A dusty meandering road paved our way through the market, which was rammed corner to corner from groceries to charcoal. The lack of buildings exposed all manner of brightly coloured produce and had created a lively, vibrant environment. A peculiar dichotomy was created: from the enticing, welcoming vibes of the market, yet a need to confine ourselves to the safety of the double-locked 4x4. The market was a hard-hitting presentation of life for Zambians even in the suburbs of its capital city.

                  Progressing onward to our first project visit, we trundled through the inner layers of the compound, before arriving to the, soon to be busy, Steve Biko Social Centre. The time was roughly 15:55, and students were due to arrive for class at 16:00. On arrival, we were greeted by Romance, a teacher at the centre. The centre itself is run the same as any typical school, but opens after school hours, as a supplement to their education. Standard schools within the compound are in very high demand, meaning classrooms are overrun with students (up to 80 students packed into very small rooms) and understaffed. The education isn’t the worst and the curriculum well intended, but the poor facilities and crammed environment, creates an unproductive place of study. This is where the Social Centre steps in. Each class holds about 20 students, and with the help of focussed teachers, attentive students and an education system based around the use of iSchool tablets, an effective system is created. Worthy of note is the opportunity to provide education for many girls, who would otherwise be at home doing chores whilst their brothers went to school.

  After brief greetings, we sat down with Diego, an immensely charismatic Italian gentleman with a real passion for the work at the centre. He represents the charity In & Out of the Ghetto who are responsible for envisioning and funding a lot of the project. Diego digested more about the current educational situation in Bauleni, and how the centre allows students to bridge the gap, by becoming more employable and maybe being able to move away from the compound after their education had finished. We further learned of funding for a second floor to the current building, which would enable more children from the area to attend classes at the centre.

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The brief, but productive meeting came to a close as we met again with Romance who was giving a class about leaves. The class was broken down into three groups (a typical system, to enable the few tablets to be passed around to everyone), each with a set task. Group A learning about the diverse types of trees and subsequently the varying leaves, via the tablets. Group B, practising literature, and spelling of the different leaves. And Group C, who were tasked with leaving the classroom to find some leaves, bringing them back and then drawing them. The level of interactivity was genuinely incredible, and gave the students the opportunity to apply the knowledge they had learned, something not typical in most schools in developing countries.

We then adventured to another classroom, where a science lesson was taking place. Again, with the use of the tablets, students began learning about different types of microorganisms. This lead to an insightful class on HIV, its transmission and precautions.  The visit was very useful, not only allowing us to recognise how previous fundraising efforts were helping make a difference; but, from the perspective of the charity, gaining further insight into potential future funding opportunities.

                  As we headed back from the centre, mother nature composed a symphony of growling stomachs, allowing for a recap of the day to be discussed over a pleasant meal and thereafter some much needed sleep.