I am certainly enjoying the sounds and tastes of this garden of Zambia. One morning, I awoke to the sounds of children learning the alphabet. There is a preschool and primary school nearby and they were reciting after the teacher. I laid back and listened to what seemed delight in their voices. Children here are eager to learn. In Kalomo, the primary students are taught in Tonga, their native language, and are also taught English classes. Once they are in High School, all classes are taught in English. This provides a challenge for those students who are taught out in the villages in their own language, where there is less English taught. When they come to a town like Kalomo for High School, it is difficult for them to pass entrance exams and meet education standards once they are admitted. They often need tutoring to help them meet the standards.
The vulnerability of life here is amazing. Imagine these young students, especially the girls who come from a small village. Not only do they have academic challenges, but they also have challenges in finding safe housing. They might stay with relatives, family friends or find a small room to rent in one of the compounds. They may or may not be able to eat with the family, so they may need to make their own food. They have no place to study and are in school from either 7 am-1pm or 2pm-6pm. There are many hours of the day that are open and there is little work possibilities available.
The Mwaata Secondary School we visited this week gave us a copy of their strategic plan for 2013-2017. The report included statistics about student dropout rates; more girls drop out than boys do. Also, girls living in “self accommodations”, rather than with parents or in “protected” housing with guardians, are 5-times more likely to get pregnant. This is why the hostel is so important for the High School. We met again yesterday with the Head (Principal), Mr. Zulu, and he has high educational goals for both female and male students. He said the girl child is so much more vulnerable than the boy child is and we are committed to make education available to all. What a compelling goal when one sees these beautiful young girls who so desire education and careers as teachers, nurses and doctors … and Zambia needs their leadership.