New school, Nshima and Zimbabwe!
So the schools are now in full swing as is the Bookbus project. We are visiting 4 of the same schools as last year but one we have changed and the Maanu Mbwabi school is fast becoming a favourite amongst the volunteers.
There are 320 pupils from grades 1 to 7 and these come from some of the neediest communities around Livingstone. Many of the children have never had access to the kinds of things the bus is equipped with and text books are almost non existent. It’s great to see that even after only 4 weeks that the children are becoming more confident and are starting to slowly come out with their own ideas and preferences. According to the teachers, Thursday is now the day with the highest attendance! The teachers working at small community schools like this are not paid by the government; they are basically “volunteer” teachers who rely on donations and the goodwill of the community. However, throughout my time in Zambia I have see that these tend to be the most committed teachers and the ones that really strive to give their pupils the best start that is possible. Unfortunately without resources, desks or even the most basic books they are fighting an uphill battle but the commitment is there are clearly visible amongst these valuable members of society.
As our truck rumbles through the outlying compounds to reach the school we are greeted with more enthusiasm each week. We are also treated to views of “real” Zambian life as it happens. Most dwellings along the route have a small stand outside selling the surplus products they have grown. Huge paw paws and sweet potatoes are the most prevalent at the moment. We drive past markets, schools and churches and are constantly greeted with shouts of “m’zungu, m’zungu!” and the double handed waves and dances that the kids seem to think we warrant!
The bus is in the garage being raised so hopefully this will then allow it to access more places. It is a necessary alteration as the roads this year are in a much worse state of repair than last year. Potholes everywhere, even the Zambians are complaining! Meanwhile the truck is having some alterations made to make it more “library-like” and hopefully when the illustrations are applied it will look just as striking as the bus!
At Libala school last week some of the grade 8 girls cooked a traditional Zambian lunch for us. There was, of course, the staple N’shima and this was accompanied by fried rape (a kind of spinach) with tomatoes, cassava leaves and ochre with groundnuts. We ate in one of the classrooms with some of the teachers and they were very keen to see the m’zungo technique for rolling n’shima and using it to pick up the rest of your meal. Everyone had a great time, the food was excellent and the experience really something to write home about and not a knife and fork in sight!
Some of us took a day trip to Zimbabwe to see the falls from the other side. Both countries seem to think that they “own” the best side of the falls! All I can say is that you get equally wet on both sides at this time of year!! Quite a bit of historic rivalry there. No visit to Victoria Falls would be complete with a trip to the terrace at the world renowned Victoria Falls Hotel! This place is a world away from the rest of the town and you can just imagine royalty sitting and admiring the view 100 years ago. Unfortunately the town is in a poor state of repair. Walking around, it felt like a ghost town. Lots of boarded up building, empty petrol stations and, bizarrely, families of warthogs walking around town, looking very surreal crossing the roads!