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.
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.