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Blog: 84 Fish Headbands


Jul 2011

84 Fish Headbands

Posted by / in The Book Bus /

Last year during the final few weeks of 2010 we started visiting a small community project called Zwielopili. The, now retired, deputy head of Nakatindi, Mr Mwiya, started the project in 2 small grass rooms for children in his neighbourhood who cant afford to go to school, who don’t have enough time off from household chores to attend full time lessons or who for other reasons are missing out on their education. For example he has tried to encourage girls who have dropped out of education because of getting pregnant to come and have free tuition to try and gain some kind of qualification.

Since we started coming here the centre has grown, in part due to generous donations from Book Bus volunteers. They have built another 2 mud and straw classrooms, refurbished the original ones, including putting in concrete floors, built a toilet and added a roundabout and see-saw for the small kids who flock to the place daily in ever increasing numbers!

The children run behind the bus as we approach the compound where the school is located. They shout things such as muzungu, bye bye, or Kerry Kerry (how my name is pronounced here!) They try to beat us to school and often succeed. Sometimes we joke that the truck is like the pied piper of Livingstone, leading the kids to books, paper, crayons and glitter!

One of the teachers at Zweilopili, Claudia, is always happy to see us. She loves to join in the activities that we do and she is really great with the kids. She wishes that one day she could become a trainer pre school teacher, it is her biggest dream, but finding the funds will prove to be a tough task. So for now she volunteers her time and waits for the day her dream may come true. At only 23 her life has been very hard, she was orphaned at an early age and having some physical disabilities she has had to fight to be accepted. Discrimination against anyone, who is in anyway different, is rife in Zambia.

So when we discovered that it was going to be Claudia’s 23rd birthday we decided to surprise her with a small party in the park. We made a basic picnic including rainbow jelly, a birthday cake and a game of pass the parcel with forfeits! We had a great afternoon, featuring musical bumps (which resulted in a pair of broken sunglasses but as the owner said “there’s always casualties in musical bumps!!”), consequences, which was hilarious, and lots of laughter at the forfeits. At the end Claudia announced that it had been the happiest day of her life and that she had never celebrated her birthday before. When she was a kid it was just another day. When everyday living is so tight there is no space for special treats. I think her speech brought home to me and the volunteers how lucky we are back home to take things like birthday treats and kids parties for granted, for a big percentage of the world every day is just about survival. For the finale the birthday girl got covered in glitter – a fitting Book Bus ending!!

Another school from last year is Maanu Mbwami. We continue to visit here on a Thursday and teach ALL the grades. It is certainly the weekly day of chaos. We drive past this school on the way to Chileleko (our new Tuesday school) and the first time there was mad confusion when they saw us coming and we didn’t stop. The look on the kids faces turned from joy to puzzlement but all was good when we arrived on Thursday and explained. Now every Tuesday we get lots of cheers and waves but no cries of “stop, stop”!

The first session is “team Chaos – the return” We teach both grades 1 and 2 together and every week the numbers are huge. They started off small and lulled us into a false sense of calm! See for yourselves – in the last 5 weeks we have made
35 snakes
60 lion masks
84 fish headbands (with streamers – no less)
76 weather charts (on paper plates)
76 flying pigs
The jump from 35 to 60 was interesting but then 84 was unbelievable! It looked amazing to see 84 kids all running around with the fish headbands on, especially when grade 2 went back into class to do maths and kept the trendy headgear on!

The difference between the confidence and creativity in the kids that are used to Book Bus sessions and those that are experiencing for the first time is huge and it inspires me that the Book Bus project is really doing some good and measurable things in the community schools around Livingstone.

The volunteers that we have had so far this season have embraced the project whole heartedly and therefore are getting the most out of the experience. As well as seeing the “polished” side of Zambia that any “normal” tourist does, they see everyday life of real Zambians. They walk in the markets, teach in the schools and drive through the villages interacting with a multitude of Zambians, chatting to the teachers, the older pupils, the stall holders to find out first hand what life is really like here in Livingstone during their stint on the Bookbus!

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