Despatch number 6. 26 and 27 May.
Friday 26 May.
Having loafed about yesterday it was back to the bucking bronco Hilux and school visits. Manukwa school is the largest primary in the kingdom with over 700 children. It has also just had an upgrade of one classroom for secondary education with plans in place to build a new senior school adjacent. I’ll eat my hat if the plan to commence imminently happens! We have 15 orphan children attending from far and wide, the furthest being about 6 miles. For this journey on foot they will get no more than 4 hours in the classroom. A lack of classrooms and teachers means all grade levels are on a shift system the youngest starting at 7am so early starts are rudimentary to life here. The head is a wonderfully cheerful sole and he had convened the orphans on the morning shift to listen to me pontificate and review their reports – tough for those who had done less well last term. His plea for help was Kindles, microscopes and science kit.(again!).
Before going onto our fourth school I had been asked to call on a skills training centre sponsored by a charity called Hands Around The World. We use the caretaker/ carpenter instructor Wilson to make any furniture we need. It’s a great facility but sadly very under utilised as it provides a great opportunity for carpenter and sewing machine training to the very many unemployed.
Myzangulu school is in our area and where we are having great success at well 6 and a proactive community; they after all built the 2 classroom brick block which Chris and Claire found on their last trip. Subsequently the church provided all the funds to complete the building last year. We only have 3 orphans as part of the 200 children who regularly attend. This is a community run school with volunteer teachers who are not professionals.
In July last year I got an undertaking from the local education authorities that they would provide a teacher- see blog 2 (19 and 24 May). I’m impressed that despite the governments intransigence these villagers soldier on and get the sort of results they do. In complete contrast we called on a primary school near the 4th Battalion The Zambia Regiment Barracks which has 1600 pupils and 53 teachers! The headmistress is the schools zone coordinator for our patch (whatever that means) and can have an influence on the deployment of trained teachers so it was yet another plea for action. Having completed our visit programme to all the schools in our area and reviewed all 43 orphans progress I’m actually satisfied we are making a huge difference for the most disadvantaged in this poorest of Zambian society so earnestly thank you all who are playing a part with your generosity.
Saturday 27 May.
As was the case last Saturday, an early start hoping to see the remaining 9 orphan families. In a round trip of 6 hours my priority mission was completed and of the 43 orphans we are caring for have seen them all in their homes bar one. In this case a tragedy, well not really a tragedy but our most promising girl in her final primary school year has gone and got herself pregnant. She was destined to us taking her forward to secondary boarding school and, believe it or not, she may well still succeed. She continues to go to school until shortly before the birth, has one term off and is then allowed to recommence school. In a long talk with her mother, who was visibly distressed, it transpires that this is not unusual and the mother takes on the child – I continue to never be too amazed, and this is primary school! Another rather distressing situation involves a very bright young boy who is HIV positive and was being cared for by his grandparents. The grandfather died in February at the tender age of 94 leaving a widow of 89 who was in the fields harvesting today. We now find the boys father has pitched up having abandoned the child over 7 years ago when his wife died of AIDS begging for help as he is clearly very unwell, is HIV positive and unable to work. I would not bet on who is going to die first, grandmother or father and in any case what then, as the father claims they are the end of the line.
These are but two tales in this impoverished, backward but wonderful province where everybody seems to smile whatever their circumstances. I hope you are all enjoying the hot holiday weekend.