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.
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.
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.