The forgotten school
Tucked in one of the most remote parts of Choma District, the derelict building and its sparse surroundings could easily be described as a forgotten place. From the outside, the thatched structure looks deserted and it is difficult to make out what it is intended for. There are visible cracks in the building and the plastering on some parts of the mud walls has peeled off. It could be a chicken run or a storage shed for maize. Only after close scrutiny can its purpose be identified – it is a community school.
This is Kamawindow Community School and it is a fully functioning education facility with an enrollment of 215 pupils and three community volunteer teachers. Kamawindow School was established as a community school in 2012 and seven years on the pupils still sit on makeshift wooden benches in a classroom that poses a danger to them. It is a miracle that the classroom block has not yet collapsed on pupils. The plight of 215 children who are enrolled at this school raises a number of questions for the authorities and even the community leadership elected to aid development in the community.
‘I can’t even begin to describe how survive as volunteer teachers’
The main reason why the community school is still in, are the teachers. Despite difficult situations is their impressive commitment to the education of the children in their community.
“When the school started in 2012 what we had was this structure which was built by parents. Students wrote their work on any kind of piece of paper which they could find. It did not matter whether it was clean or dirty,” said Alice Siayance a community volunteer teacher.
“The challenge that we have in teaching these pupils, is lack of teaching materials. Pupils sit on molded pan bricks, and we have no proper classrooms,” narrated Alice.
“I cannot even begin to describe how we survive as volunteer teachers. What keeps us going is just the passion of serving the community as there are no monetary benefits for us. Occasionally when parents have excess grains like maize and peanuts, they do give us,” added Alice. However, Chikanta Community Schools Development Project (CCSDP), with support from ZGF, has been implementing an initiative to promote access to quality education in community schools which helped transform Kamawindow Community School.
As a result of the work that CCSDP has done, the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) was able to engage with the District Education Board Secretary (DEBS) on the school’s needs. From this engagement, the DEBS provided the school with some learning materials. The PTA also managed to lobby for funds from the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) and a classroom block is currently under construction.
“Kamawindow is one of the schools we have been working with in this area, so through our work with them we encouraged them to engage the DEBS to alleviate some of the challenges the school was facing. In previous years they just used to come to our offices for help without knowing that it was their right to engage the DEBS,” said CCSDP Director Siamoongwa Siabalumbi.
The Chairperson for Kamawindow Community School, Bernard Vununa explained that he visited the area councillor regarding CDF after attending the community engagement meeting organised by CCSDP.
“Working with CCSDP was an eye opener, we just did not know how we were going to build a proper learning structure for the pupils. CCSDP told us that it was our right to know how the CDF was benefiting our community. Once we met with the local councillor and informed him about the plight of Kamawindow, we received materials under CDF to put up a 1×2 classroom block,” Bernard added.
Though it remains unclear when the new classroom block will be completed Bernard said he was grateful to CCSDP’s initiative as it was a push in the right direction.
“ The money we had from the CDF was enough to take us up to the roof level but now we are now stranded, we need about 5 000 kwacha for the roofing and floors.”
Without sufficient investment of resources to equip the school, the children of Kamawindow are at risk of losing their right to acquire a basic education. This may in turn deprive the society of the great ideas and creativity these young minds hold. Thus, the plight of these children is directly linked to the greater potential of society, and the work being done by CCSDP to improve the condition of Kamawindow directly contributes to societal development.