So the final week of the holiday is over and we have had the best week at Zwielepili Centre of Excellence! (Zwielepili is the Lozi word for progress)The posh sounding name belies the true state of this small community project. Zwielepili has been founded by the deputy head of Nakatindi Community School, Mr Stanley Mwiya. He realised that in his community of Moorlite there were many children who weren’t attending school at all or who were falling behind in their own schools and needed tuition but can’t afford the fees so he founded the project. At present it is just 3 grass classrooms, one without a roof and one with a roof that’s caving it! This is a place that has NO resources and many of the children here have had no contact with books, art materials or M’zungos before! I went for a walk around the compound with one of the teachers and people kept asking him if they were allowed to shake my hand!
The teachers here are mostly trained teachers that are waiting for postings and Mr Mwiya pays them a small salary out of his own government salary. The teachers are committed, hard working and dedicated to helping the underprivileged children of their town. I personally can say that few of the government employed teachers show as much dedication to their jobs as people like we have encountered at Zwielepili. They have already become firm friends of the Bookbus and we will visit them once a week for the rest of this season. One of the teachers gave us some notes when we left on Friday saying how much she valued what we had done. One of these notes read; “Your visit and being kind to me and our little school has made me realise that we are special and made us know that you girls appreciate what we do.” That made us all feel very privileged to have been part of the week.
On the Monday morning I was feeling nervous as we have never attempted to visit a non recognised school before and it was the fourth week of the holidays and people weren’t so aware of what we are doing. So I wasn’t sure how many children would turn up, how would we organise them? Would it be a poor turnout or would we have chaos on our hands?! I needn’t have worried there were plenty of children and the volunteer teachers were all there to help organise and participate themselves! As word spread the number grew each day and we had to add and extra 30 minute session at the beginning of the morning for all the preschool children that were turning up! We then did one hour with grades 1 to 3, one hour with grades 4,5 & 6 and finally an hour with grade 7 and above! The children had come from all over the area, some were full time in school others not at all. The ability was wide ranging but they all enjoyed their time with our volunteers.
Friday was “glitter” day again and after reading all the children received a handful of glitter, there were even some adult learners and they didn’t want to miss out on the sparkles!! We tried something new to the Bookbus this week, and that was some adult literacy classes. Many of the women in the community can’t read or write well and they were saying that when they go across the borders ,or into an office they have to get other people to fill in forms for them. So one of the teachers and myself devised a few worksheets for the ladies. These were done in both English and a couple of Zambian Languages, as it isn’t only English where they struggle with literacy. The reception was very favourable and we hope to continue with the program. These same ladies are part of the women’s club that weave mats etc to try and earn themselves and the community a little money. This is another initiative that has been sponsored by some of our volunteers. Helping people to help themselves and their community is a really positive aspect of our work here in Zambia!
At the end of the week Stanley confided in me that he’d also felt apprehensive on the Monday morning but it just proves that you shouldn’t be afraid of the unknown or trying something different and give them a go, sometimes they can turn out amazingly! Just like our time at Zwielepili!