The first week of holiday club on board the Livingstone Bookbus 2013 has been one of the busiest but most memorable ever. We visited 2 new schools, for 3 days each, even going in on Saturday. Both schools were rural, around 30km from Livingstone and the turnout for the Bookbus was exceptional.
The first three days were at Kamatanda Village, where there is a community preschool and school with grades 1, 2 and 3. The nearest government school is 9km walk, this prohibits the younger children beginning school until they are older, so the local community, backed by a retired teacher, started their own school. It is in a straw and mud hut but the children flock in and love to learn.
When the Bookbus first arrived, they had never seen anything like it before. There was a lot of open mouthed staring but we just jumped straight in reading some classic stories and getting the kids and teachers to join in with the actions. Being far from town and not on the tourist trail, villages like this seldom get visitors and if they do it may just be a fleeting visit, As Ann the headteacher said to me, “If anyone visits us, they are soon come and gone. We can’t believe that you have spent 3 days in our village. Thank you. Our children will never forget this.”
Lots of curious parents and onlookers were always around, coming to see what we were doing. There were also some older children from the village who joined in and in one morning we turned Kamatanda Community from this
Fun was had by everyone and the teachers were busy learning by doing. They thanked us for teaching them new skills and ways of interacting with the children.
Each day we returned, the welcome would get louder and the number of kids following the bus would increase. We read stories, sang songs, made elephants, lions, butterflies, fish, crowns and windmills. We made new friends and many memories for many people. It was a great 3 days and we rounded it off by giving the 150 children each their own book to take home. They were so proud and eager to look at the books. The teachers were amazed that the books were for the children to keep. We left accompanied with waves, smiles and lots of requests for a return visit.
The second three days were at Siandunda village, on the banks of the Zambezi River. The journey to school involved some off-roading, down sandy tracks through Mopani woodlands. Here the number of children was over 200 growing 260 on day 3. There is only a preschool in the village, with the nearest school almost 10km walk, but being summer holidays there were children of all ages around. This village was actually featured on the Comic Relief program last year where celebrities walked with some children to school to see the distance. They promised to build them a school, so we shall have to see.
We set up shop outside the headman’s house. He was delighted to have us and sat watching everything from the shade. The older children had a library corner and were happy reading a variety of books, many adults joined them and they were all fascinated by the wordsearch puzzles we handed out. The crowd of younger children enjoyed the stories and the crafts, on Saturday 220 lions and windmills were produced. Once again the teachers were super keen to join in and loved learning how to make things and read the books in a fun and interactive way.
One volunteer teacher told me it was the best teacher training he had ever received. On the Saturday as we rolled up the mats and packed away the crayons for the last time, we were constantly asked if we were coming tomorrow and if not tomorrow then when. The headman thanked us for bringing joy to his village and we left each child with their own book to continue reading until the Bookbus returns again.Kelly August 2013