Walking into one of the classrooms at Mabanga Community School in Choma, one is quickly greeted by pupils seated on the floor while their teacher writes notes on a makeshift blackboard made out of a broken wooden door and black slates. The school has an enrollment of 240 pupils and the shortage of furniture is dire. The school owns only two desks which are used by the teachers to store teaching instruments. There are no chairs at the school and pupils sit either on the floor or bricks. However, while pupils are seated on bricks, a visibly young boy can be seen seated on a makeshift semi-detached desk and chair made of wood. The 12-year-old boy, Mavuni Muzyamba who is in grade five (5) invented his own desk and chair as a way of alleviating the furniture shortage at the school. “I found it very difficult to concentrate while seated on the floor and writing on my lap. I also love carpentry, thus I decided to make my own chair and desk. I used strong wood so that it lasts longer,” Mavuni said. Mavuni who comes from a family of eight (8) is the only child attending school. He said his mother is a widow and was struggling to fend for the family. Mavuni hopes that his passion for carpentry can be harnessed at school and he can one day make a living out of it.
“I believe with proper training in carpentry, I can make furniture which can be sold to raise school fees. I would be happy to see all my siblings attending school one day,” he added. A teacher at the school, Mr Fourlie Mumpandanda said it was encouraging to see their pupils being creative and inventing furniture to use at school. “Though it is encouraging to see pupils being creative, the learning conditions which pupils are subjected to are disheartening. Apart from not having furniture, we have been waiting to receive support towards skill pathway which has never happened. This is a talent we have seen and I imagine if the school had carpentry tools, it would improve pupils career pathway,” he explained.
Our partner, Chikanta Community Schools Development Project (CCSDP) that has been working on a project focused on improving the quality of education in community schools in Choma said lack of infrastructure continued to affect the full development of community schools. “Infrastructure is a major issue in community schools as most of them are characterised by dilapidated structures and in worse situations, pupils learn under a tree,” CCSDP said.Since the inception of their first project in 2014, CCSDP has been facilitating engagement between communities and the District Education Board Secretary (DEBS) on teacher deployment, infrastructure development and supply of educational materials and fund disbursement. Despite successes scored, CCSDP said that there were still challenges concerning teacher deployment, supply of educational materials and fund disbursement in community schools in Choma district coupled with teacher housing deficit. “Currently, there are 22 teachers houses in 20 community schools instead of 159 houses. In some cases, teachers have to cycle every day from Choma town covering the distance of 40 kilometres to and from Ben Mulalu and Munzuma community schools respectively,” explained CCSDP. These infrastructure limitations have negatively affected teacher retention in community schools as the environment is generally not favourable. Additionally, this has impeded quality learning outcomes in community schools in Choma District.