School Support & Beyond
Sat, 04/05/2014 - 15:09

At the end of March Chris Hendriks of SOZ and two representatives of School Support & Beyond (SS&B) paid a visit to Kalwala. The objective was on one hand to introduce the representatives of SS&B to the staff of the schools and the Ministry officials – SS&B finances and supports the Schoollunch project that aims at supplying all pupils and students of Kalwala schools (altogether they count up to more than 1000 by now) with a healthy meal during schooldays. On the other hand we wanted to discuss the recent developments and see what impact they have on the priorities for the years to come.

Finally we used the opportunity to take some equipment and teaching aids and give a brief introduction on project management to Heads and future project managers. We will briefly address the main developments.

As mentioned before the Zambian government recognizes the importance of further development of vocational education for bringing the economy at a higher level. This awareness is reflected in the new curriculum framework. In this framework the choice was made to integrate vocational education in the existing Secondary School by distinguishing an Academic and a Vocational pathway. SOZ is happy with this choice because specifically in sparsely populated rural areas only a maximum integration of the various school programs can bring sufficient economy of scale to make education affordable. Apart from this economic argument the integrated school lays the foundation for decreasing the difference in status between 'white collar jobs' and 'blue collar jobs'. As the timetable on the picture shows the integration of both areas into a single Secondary School has already been implemented in Kalwala  – being one of the first ones in Zambia. The local community is pleased to see that all pupils leaving the regional Primary Schools can now go to the Secondary School - instead of a large percentage dropping out and having nothing to do.

The vocational programs being offered now are: bricklaying, metalwork, woodwork and agriculture. This last program will certainly get an impulse through the Schoollunch project because the size of the School production unit is such that it offers them a practical setting in which aspects like planning and other issues related to scale of operations can be shown and taught in practice.

As part of the Schoollunch project a garden has been set up by the students. As the photo of the maize field shows a good harvest can be expected by the end of the rainy season. Maize will later be the base of the lunch that the students are going to get served. The production unit is managed by the agriculture teacher.

Of course there are also some problems typical for the start of such a program: like the weeds that continued growing in the school holidays last December! And with weeds growing you cant add fertilizer. But in spite of all this it is the expectation that in a few years time the production will be more than the school needs and part of the harvest can be sold to cover other costs.

The foundation of the dining hall is nearly completed. The size of the hall had to be adjusted as compared to the initial plan because the schools started to attract more and more students from the surrounding region. The total number of daily meals to be served will now be over 1000 instead of the 500 that was accounted for initially.

The administrative block reaches completion (see photo). Although the walls still need plastering the staff room has been taken into use as class room for students. Certainly not an ideal situation but what to do when there is such a shortage of class rooms. The Ministry has promised to build extra class rooms so hopefully the housing situation soon gets better.

The notebooks we brought for the staff room will temporarily be added to the computer lab. Teachers can use the lab after teaching hours.

Because the capital of the new province is being constructed near the school, the region experiences an explosive growth. In order to supply the future citizens with drinking water, a dam has been constructed in the river near Kalwala. The water from the artificial lake can also be used for irrigation of the school gardens.

We previously referred already to the increasing number of students of the Secondary School. This growth is a positive development in the sense that more youngsters get the valuable academic or vocational education but it also has a drawback. Students come from so far away that they have to walk up to 10 miles in the morning and in the evening. Since this is virtually impossible - it would take more than 6 hours a day - an increasing number of students stays overnight in the neighborhood of the school. For the boys the problem is limited; they find a place to stay somewhere in the village. For the girls however it is undesirable that they just spend the night somewhere without a proper place to sleep and without supervision. Therefor, for the most urgent group of girls, a preliminary boarding facility has been created in one of the store rooms of the school (the picture shows some of them in the storeroom). There are no beds and sanitation from the school has to be used. Clearly not a desirable situation. For this reason we worked out a project plan with the Head of the school and the local authorities. The project must result in proper boarding facilities for, initially, a limited group of students. With the facilities created by the Schoollunch project the boarding students can be offered a morning and evening meal.

The project proposal - we will soon start looking for organizations or individuals that are prepared to contribute financially - will be published op this website within the coming weeks.

A number of times reference was made to the strong growth of the school. This growth has advantages in an economic sense - a larger variety of courses can be offered without resulting in small groups and inefficient use of equipment. But the clear disadvantage is the larger traveling distance for the students. One could of course opt for building similar schools elsewhere in the region and trying to find an optimum between traveling time and economy of scale; although with the density of population in the region even than boarding facilities will be necessary. It will still take many years before the 'ideal' situation has been reached, but it is good to have a view of how it is going to be in the future.

The youtube film underneath gives a view of the school buildings in its present phase of development.