The Bookbus 2013 season in Livingstone is well underway and our volunteers have busy reading with hundreds of children over the past weeks. We visit a variety of different kinds of schools, some community, some part community, part government and one government school. We work with children from as young as age three up to sixteen. It isn’t unusual here to find children of a big age range in one class, this is because they may have started school late, had to drop out for some time to work or take care of a family member or they may not have had the means to support themselves in school. So having a sixteen year old sitting next to an eleven year old is common place and the children all take it in their stride.
One of the things that almost all volunteers comment on after their first few days in school is how much the children help and support each other. There is no laughing at the one who is struggling or making fun, his or her classmates will strive to help them in any way possible. We also see this in the way that young children (as young as 5 or 6) take care of younger siblings. They are often left in charge as parents are busy working, so seeing a 7 year old walking around with a baby strapped to her back, or a 6 year leading his toddler brother down the road is a common sight. Children here learn to be self sufficient much earlier than in Western countries, they have more road sense and often fend for themselves on a day to day basis. We see this when the Bookbus drives down the road, in the amount of children who swarm from their houses and follow us, without informing anyone where they are, or in the children who accompany us on village tours, holding the hands of strangers, walking away from their homes!
The village of Sinde, the home of Twabuka School, is still getting it’s Wednesday Bookbus visit and it’s here that a member of the community will take all volunteers on a village tour to show them the way of life for the children they have been reading with. They meet the village headman, who weaves the most beautiful baskets, learn how they build their houses and long drop toilets and about many other aspects of village life. The Bookbus is well respected in the area and its contribution to the community well known, so when the yellow shirts are seen walking about there is no feeling that we are intruding on their daily life, instead we are smiled at and welcomed. For many volunteers this is one of the highlights of their stay in Livingstone.
At Twabuka they have begun a feeding programme so that ALL pupils get one meal everyday at lunchtime. This meal is always of the Zambian staple, N’shima, made with maize flour and water, which is then served with either beans or a vegetable. Providing the children with a meal means improved attendance as parents will send their children to school to ensure they have at least one meal a day. Unfortunately such feeding programs are not paid for by the government so do not readily occur, it is mostly through private donors that such things can take place. It’s great to see all the kids tucking in to their lunch. They have to bring their own plate/bowl and you often see brothers and sisters telling each other to hurry up eating and being chivvied then to use the water pump to wash up so the next one can have their turn with the plate!
The children at Simoonga School have now had 4 Bookbus visits and they are loving Thursdays. Their teachers tell us that Thursday always has full attendance now. The other week we were slightly late because of a small truck issue (T.I.A!) and then when we started pulling up the track to the school we heard a big shout from the open windows. The teacher told us the kids were afraid we weren’t coming but then when they heard the truck engine they all started cheering! I have rarely met such interested teachers as the two lady teachers of grades 5 and 6. They never leave the classroom, and are interested in looking at all the books and the activities the groups are doing and then choosing the craft they like best; they want to have a go at making it too! Every week they tell me how good it is for their pupils to have the Bookbus visit their school. They normally have no exposure to these kinds of books and hands on activities. We often have to instruct in the use of scissors and glue for the first few weeks at a new school, but they soon get the hang of our style of working and then…there is no stopping them!!
Kelly - June 2013