So the 2011 season is well under way and we have already established some close links with the 2 new schools that have become part of our program this year.
Mondays now see us visit Libuyu community school. This is a school similar to that at Linda which used to be Mondays destination. It is in the heart of one of Livingstone’s busiest, nosiest and poorest suburbs. It’s close to a huge market and health centre and driving there you get a real sense of African everyday living. It has around 400 pupils from grades 1 to 7. The teaching takes place in one large hall (it used to be some kind of depo) There are some plywood partitions but you can just imagine the noise when there are 5 classes taking place at once.
The staff here are all volunteers, except the head, who is a paid government teacher. Mr Matenga is a quiet, smiling man who beams when he talks about his job. He is absolutely thrilled to have the Book Bus visit his school and he always comes walking around, hands clasped behind his back, seeing what we are doing, praising the students and offering encouragement. He is one of the most involved heads that I have met during my time in Africa. His staff also have an obvious and open respect for him.
Classes here are relatively big and we start our week off teaching an hour each of grade 4, 5, 6 and 7. Volunteer numbers have been relatively low for the past few weeks so we are getting experts at what works well when you have 20 kids on your mat!! (Top tip – avoid glitter (oh -and sequins!!) Quizzes have become very popular with the older groups. It ensures that they have to read through the book, because with so many you cant listen to them all read individually and they love working in teams and competing with their classes mates. Although there is an obvious rivalry they always conclude with a “clap for the winner!” Here in Zambia the pupils always help each other if someone is stuck and they rarely seem to make fun or laugh at the less able students.
The pupils also love having us and now they are used to this weekly ritual, even suggesting which topics they would like to do next week and regularly asking why we can’t come everyday! We teach outside in a small courtyard with fruit trees as shade, although chasing the shade still does occur. The soil is a deep shade of terracotta and we always climb aboard the bus exhausted and covered in red sand….who has the dirtiest feet is often a topic of conversation on the way home!! (another top tip – don’t wear white trousers!!!)
On Tuesday, in direct contrast, we visit Chileleko (Tonga for Blessings) Community School. We drive right through Libuyu and exit Livingstone and, although we are only a few kilometres from town, it feels like we are really out in the bush. It is so peaceful here. There is no electricity or water in the area (which is called Mapensi – most Livingstonians don’t even know where it is.) and people live mostly in traditional mud and thatch houses The school is situated right next to the Maramba river, which eventually flows into the Zambezi and we teach outside, behind the school, under trees with views of nothing but wilderness.
There are about 280 pupils here and they come from surrounding villages. The children here are the politest I have met during BookBus, this comes from the head teacher and founder of the school, Emmanuel. He and his brother, James, run the school which has 6 teachers, all of whom are volunteers. Emmanuel and James are both trained teachers but they have refused paid government posts because they want to continue working here. Emmanuel hopes that one day the position of head teacher of Chileleko will be recognised by the government and will attract some kind of salary (as is happening in more and more community schools). It is rare to see such sacrifice and dedication to a cause and when myself and other volunteers complimented him on the behaviour of his pupils, he smiled and said, “Hearing things like that makes all the hardships worthwhile.”
We teach grades 5, 6 and 7 and it really is a pleasure to be here. The pupils, the teachers and the setting all make for a relaxed morning. And just for your information the soil here is light brown and although you get dusty (especially with the wind that doesn’t seem to reach town blowing the dust around) it doesn’t generate the same type of feet related conversations on the way home as Monday!!
It is a great feeling to have found two such worthy schools to continue the Livingstone Book Bus in 2011. I’m sure you will be hearing more about them from me as the season continues.