Team Zambia arrived at Lusaka International Airport on Saturday morning safely, thank God, and were met by Amos Mwasapa, our host who is the National Director of Scripture Union (SU) Zambia. It was a nice sunny day with not a cloud in sight. I would guess that the temperature was about 20-25 degrees centigrade already, though it was not yet 8.00 am.
We loaded our numerous pieces of luggage into the Toyota Hilux and started the journey to Kitwe, which is about 375 kilometres from Lusaka, and part of the Copperbelt, Zambia’s industrial area. We needed some water for the journey, so we first went to a shopping mall in town to buy some. We decided to get some Zambian Kwacha as well. Zambia has recently changed its currency and the old money is being phased out but is still being used alongside the new money; this is a bit confusing but I think I have worked it out. The old currency has more 000s at the end of it, and the Zambians sometimes speak in ‘old money’ which makes things confusing. Thankfully, our Scripture Union colleagues have been on hand to help!
After a few hours of driving, we stopped for lunch in a roadside town. We decided on having Subway; not very Zambian, but readily available en-route. As hungry as we were, we were not complaining! We set off again after lunch and finally got to Kitwe around 3.30 pm.
We were deposited at a guesthouse, St Andrew’s KIM, where we has a brief rest and freshened up for dinner at Amos’s home which is also the where the Scripture Union office is based. We were hosted by Amos’s family – his wife, Brenda, and his two children. They also have a young Scottish man, Jonathan Davie, staying with them. Jonathan had been on a Tearfund trip some years previously, and had returned to Kitwe to volunteer for a few months at the Scripture Union office. He returns to the United Kingdom in June, but is already making plans to return to Zambia in January 2014. A very interesting young man! Brenda cooked up a storm! The spread included some authentic Zambia cuisine, such as nshima, which is made from corn flour. We enjoyed the meal immensely.
On Monday, we were picked up in the morning and taken to the SU Office where we were introduced to a number of SU staff and volunteers and taken through an induction programme, which included a brief history of SU in Zambia, an understanding of the work carried out by SU and about its management structure in Kitwe. We also had a tour of the Kitwe town and marketplace. We learnt that there is an issue with alcoholism as a local brew, called shake-shake, it is very cheap and readily available as well as other strong spirits. With high levels of unemployment, men spend a lot of their time drinking, and I noticed in Kitwe that there are a fair number of street children who beg and some of them look ‘spaced out’. I learnt that sniffing petrol is an issue among the street children.
SU’s work is predominantly in Kitwe where its bookshop is based. The team does a lot of work within primary and secondary schools where they run Christian-based leadership and empowerment programmes. They also have youth rallies that take place at the SU campsite just outside Kitwe. In preparation for the work we were to do within primary and secondary schools, we learnt that there were three types of schools: state-run, community (usually just primary) and private schools. SU works within all types. The state-run schools are not free, though not as expensive as the private schools; a number of local communities are unable to afford the fees required at the state-run schools. The communities, or compounds as they are called, therefore set up their own schools within their compounds and set a lower fee, which, we learnt, some of the children are still unable to afford – Kr5.00/month or 0.60p/month.
At our induction, we were given a tentative schedule of work for between Tuesday 26th March and Friday 5th April. We were told that the schedule was subject to change and that we needed to be very, very flexible and ready to adapt our material to the needs of each class. They were not wrong! We had two secondary school visits scheduled for 27th and 28th March and both were cancelled because, although SU normally visited these schools at a set time each week, the students were sitting exams on the 27th, and were allowed to go home early on the 28th because of the Easter break. It wasn’t clear by the end of the week if we would be able to visit the secondary schools after Easter. We would find out as the weekend progresses, hopefully. We also had one primary school visit moved from 2nd April to 27th March. Despite our schedule’s flexibility, we did get to run some interesting art classes with some basic schools this week.
On Tuesday 26th March, we visited two basic schools in Musonda Compound. As the sessions were to run at the same time, it was agreed that Laura and Steve would go to one school with a group of Peer Educators, the SU volunteers who normally run classes with the school children, and that Carolyn and I would go to another school with another group of Peer Educators. Laura and Steve went to Yande and Carolyn and I went to Ubumi, which are about 10 minutes’ walk from each other.
We had agreed we would base what we did that day on Philippians 4:8 which reads, Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things. We therefore read this out in the class and asked the children to think of such things and then draw accordingly; we gave them paper and colouring pencils/felt tips to use, and we drew some examples of ‘nice’ things on the blackboard. We spoke through interpreters as the level of English comprehension among the pupils in these schools is not very good.
I learned later that a number of school children at Yande had been sent home because they did not have the school fees. Jonathan decided to pay the monthly fee, so when we visited again on Thursday, the classes were full; God bless Jonathan! The Yande school building is made up of just one block and the room where Laura and Steve had their class was made up of two classes of different grades which would normally run side-by-side. There is no partitioning in the room so I can’t imagine how the children are able to concentrate on their lessons. To maximise the space in this room, two grades attend in the morning and another two grades attend in the afternoon. There are two other smaller classes rooms in the school block. With the depleted number in the double classroom, there were about 55 pupils in the classes.
The other basic school, Ubumi, is bigger, with two blocks and about five/six small classes rooms. The class Carolyn and I took had 53 pupils in it and there didn’t seem to be space for more. The pupils in our classes were quite shy and, I felt, a bit wary, of us. It might be that they were just not used to having visitors apart from the SU Peer Educators around them. Some of the children seemed sad to me…
Steve had a children’s Christian song, C L A P clap your hands, which he sang at both Yande and Ubumi, and got the children to participate in. The song had spelling and actions in it. The children liked this very much, though they did not follow all the words of the song.
On Wednesday 2th March, in the morning, we went to Kantanta Private School, in Nkana East. The fees in this nursery and primary school are in the region of Kr750/term so the children here get a good education and are communicated with in English. The children here were very excited to see us. The Head Teacher arranged for us – SU staff and volunteers, and Team Zambia – to address the whole school at an assembly, and then took us to run an art class with Grades 6 and 7 (c11 to 13 year olds); these classes were deliberately put together for our art lesson, so usually have separate lessons in different class rooms. In total there were about 45 students in the art class.
After introductions at the assembly, Kapampula Chilufya, SU’s Provincial Coordinator, took the students through some songs which he had taught them previously, and Steve did the C L A P song. Carolyn gave a reading of the empty tomb story, as found in Matthew 28:1-8. Laura and Steve had created a drawing of an empty tomb which was shown to the children. After the brief talk on Easter given by Steve, the assembly was dispersed and we ran the art class. We had decided that the pupils will make Easter cards. Laura led the class while the rest of us assisted the children, giving some illustrations on the blackboard as a guide. We asked the teachers of Grades 6 and 7 to choose the best three cards in their class and we rewarded them with star/heart-shaped stickers which they were very appreciated of.
In the afternoon of 27th March, we went to Bulangililo Primary School, a government-run school, where we were to take part in the Student Union meeting. The school was not able to locate the key to the shed where the meeting normally takes place so the meeting, which had already started by the time we arrived, was being conducted in one corner of a very large field. There were about 30 pupils being led by one of the school prefects; however, as we walked across the field to them, we seemed to attract about 70 or so more pupils to the group, much more than the numbers who attend the school’s SU meetings, we were told.
After introductions, we enacted the story of the empty tomb, with Steve reading the passage and Jonathan, Laura, two SU volunteers and I playing parts of the story. Steve gave the talk on the Easter message. We then asked them to make Easter cards. With the group being bigger than anticipated, we just about had enough cards with us for them to us. At the end of the session we asked the teacher in charge of the SU group to choose about six people with the best cards and we gave them stickers, which all the other students wanted as well. We did not have enough stickers for everyone who wanted one, but did give a few more out.
Thursday 28th March: we returned to the schools in Musonda Compound. This time Carolyn and I went to Yande and Laura and Steve went to Ubumi, each with a group of Peer Educators. We had decided that we would ask the children to make animal masks from paper plates, so we had spent the night before cutting out eyes on the 130 paper plates we had brought with us. We split the plates into half which was ok for the Ubumi class of about 60 but not ok for the Yande class. With Jonathan paying the fees for the month, ALL the children seemed to be present in the double class, and we only had 65 masks for them to make!
We had taken some extra roll paper which turned out to be our saving grace at Yande. The Head Teacher asked the children in Grade 7 (half of the double class) to take their desks and benches to the back of the school block, under a tree, as Carolyn and I would not have been able to take the two classes at the same time within the time scales we had. Carolyn therefore took the class that remained indoors; she gave the 65 masks to the c120 children in the class and asked them to draw masks. I took the Grade 7 class under the tree, asking them to draw ‘nice’ things. We gave best three/four ‘artists’ in each class stickers.
We had lunch and re-grouped at the SU office for a debriefing. We then had a ‘get to know your culture’ social, which involved our SU colleagues showing us some Zambian dances. Insightful and fun!
Tomorrow is Good Friday, so the schools are closed which means there will be no visits for us. It was been decided that there will be ‘master classes’ on Saturday for secondary school students, where Laura will run sessions on art, and Carolyn and I will run sessions on photography. We are expecting that there will be about 15 students for the art classes and a similar number for photography. Carolyn and I are very excited about this as this will give us the opportunity to do something more related to our skills. The art work with the students has been quite rewarding, particularly seeing the enthusiasm with which the children work on their art, and I have enjoyed documenting the sessions through photography, but I am very keen to impart some photographic skills. It should be good. Carolyn and I have a few projects that the students should find interesting! Looking forward to it!