Monday, September 24, 2012

Book Handover at Mshawa Basic School

Meet the children of Mshawa Basic School. They are assembled for the presentation of almost 200 standard school books that were purchased with donations made by my generous family and friends. We bought books for all grades in the subjects of mathematics, english, creative studies and technology, social and developmental studies and integrated science. Also, we bought some supplies for the school, like chalk, pens, flipchart paper, permanent markers and printing paper. The school administration showed their gratitude by hosting an official handover of the books. An official from the Dept. of Education came for the ceremony. He is pictured below receiving the books and holding them up for display.

I read a speech in local language and English.

And, then we celebrated. The children staged a series of traditional dances. The first is called Ngoma and is a dance from the Ngoni tribe. They wear animal skins and hold staffs while singing and keeping beat with their feet. The dance is a one of togetherness and all are welcome to join in if they feel the spirit take them.

The traditional dance below is called Gule Wamkulu (The Big Dance). This dance is my favorite. Some men beat drums while others dress in masks and take on animal spirits or whatever spirit is invoked by the mask. The Nyow (another name for the dance) dancers are considered to be magical because they display amazing feats of strength and stamina. Below are pictures of two animal spirits and a man dressed as a woman. He moves like a woman and dances the traditional dance of a woman. I love this dancing for its creativity and artistry. 

 All the dancing was performed by school children. Some are older than it takes time for many of these children to make it through the school system. Still, the purchase of books will go a long way in helping to meet the needs of this school. For all those that donated, thank you so much for your help. The children and teachers are immensely grateful! The celebration was a good day for all. I wish all of you were there.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Mshawa Basic School - The Tour

Hello everyone. Long time, no update. The provincial house has been without internet for the past two months, which makes it quite difficult to do any updating of blogs or checking of Facebook. But, this is Africa, so I roll with it as best as possible. Right now, I'm in Lusaka. I sat on a panel for some of the newer volunteers and spoke about the realities of dating a local. I emphasized the importance of using condoms and getting tested for HIV regularly. And, of course, I talked a bit about some of the cultural differences and trying to compromise. But, that's a topic for another time. What I want to do today is mostly a picture blog featuring Mshawa Basic School. The fundraiser is going well. We've raised close to $1000 for the school, putting us almost halfway to the goal of $2000. I'd like to close out the fundraiser end of February, so if you haven't donated, please think about giving a little bit to the school. Hopefully, the pictures of the school, teachers and students will help people understand a bit more of the reality of rural schools in Zambia. So, let's get started!

The pictures below are of the classrooms. The first classroom is the nicest. In fact, it's been renovated since I came to the community. I remember my first three months at site passing the school and seeing the students having classes outside under the trees. The government funded the renovation project.

This next classroom building is basically what the entire school looked like before the renovation project. Despite its dilapidated appearance, it is still be used for classes. I actually sat in on a exam that was being given in the classroom pictured below the building. Not the most comfortable environment for learning.

The school is in a beautiful location, though. The view behind the classrooms is a lovely valley surrounded by forested mountains. The valley holds maize fields and grounds for sporting events, mostly soccer.

Below is a picture of my counterpart at the school, Mr. Mukelabai Mataa, Senior Teacher. He's standing in the doorway of his house. Teachers are provided housing by the school system, though in extreme rural areas the housing is sub-par. In my opinion, this house is a bit better than some I've seen and nicer than my house,  but many schools have a difficult time attracting teachers because of the rough living conditions.

Another teacher standing outside of the same classroom pictured above. He'd just finished teaching for the day.

The next pictures are from the first garden project. On this day, the children transplanted rape (a local green) from nursery beds into the garden. 

The children, well and all Zambians in general, LOVE posing for pictures. Here some of the students hold up a bunch of rape as they prepare to transplant.

These boys are preparing a nursery bed for other vegetable crops.

And, Mataa helps to water in the transplants. As you can see, despite the rural conditions, Zambians take pride in dressing professionally for their jobs.

This is the second garden project. Some animals broke into the first nursery and ate a bunch of seedlings, so the school constructed a fence for their onion nursery. I was impressed with the ladder entry method.

Some of the students watering the onion seedlings.

And, watering the msangu seedlings. I mentioned it before but msangu is a tree that can be planted in fields to increase fertility and decrease the use of chemical fertilizers.

And, that's the end of the tour of Mshawa Basic School. The teachers and students are putting in an effort to raise money, too. So, please, please, please, think about donating for books. Go to to donate. Any amount is welcome, and if for some reason, you cannot donate using paypal, please send me an email at and I'll send an address that you can mail a check.

I'll try to check in sooner next time, maybe with some more personal stories. Can y'all believe that I've been here for almost a year. Time is flying, and I'm happy here in Zambia. I already know that leaving will be difficult. :) Wishing all of you the best!