Since its opening in 2006, Mukwashi Trust School has aimed to give the children in its Zambian farming community a future shaped by high-quality education, and for them to become catalysts for change in their community.
According to the UN, Zambia is one of the world’s 50 least-developed countries. It struggles with drought, inflation, corruption and a collapsing economy: over 50% of its 18 million people live in poverty.
In Zambia, a few expensive private schools serve the elite and the expats. Government schools, mainly in urban areas, are under-resourced, over-crowded and very low-quality. In rural areas, community schools are usually organised by parents and taught by volunteers or staff on tiny stipends.
Mukwashi Trust School tries to be different. We aim to match the educational quality of the top private schools, but to serve those living with most deprivation and vulnerability in our poor rural community.
‘Mukwashi’ isn’t a place; it’s the local word for ‘family’. The school is actually in Chilanga district, west of Lusaka, and we call it ‘mukwashi’ because everyone involved — staff, pupils, parents, friends and supporters — are united in one patient, family enterprise: educating the next generation.
My name is Crispin Shamufundo; I teach Maths and RE to Grades 8 to 12, and am also part of the school’s senior leadership team.
It’s at Mukwashi that I became a full ‘baked’ teacher! By this, I mean the school has been like a training college for me, with so many opportunities to learn new teaching strategies and management skills. My first training was at Paglory University, in Zambia’s central province, and I graduated in 2016 with a secondary school teaching degree.
At the moment, I rent a small house near the school which I share with my younger brother. We get on well and he’s become my best friend. When I’m not teaching or doing admin, we read, watch films, spend time in the garden, and go jogging – but he’s much faster than me.
Mukwashi has become my home, and it’s an honour to be part of this beautiful family.
I’m Angela Nkonge, and I’m a qualified primary and early years’ teacher. I’ve been working at Mukwashi since 2009, and, in this time, have taught almost every primary grade.
Currently, I’m the Grade 1 class teacher, and I teach technology studies, science and the two Zambian ‘Special Papers’ to Grades 5, 6 and 7.
At Mukwashi, every teacher’s day starts at 6:30am, and we teach our Upper Primary classes from 7:00am until 12:10pm. Then, after a quick lunch, we teach our Lower Primary classes from 12:50pm until 16:10pm.
We have a great staff team, which is very focused and dedicated, and they all helped me a lot when I went through a painful divorce. I am the mother of two boys, aged 17 and 9, and we live in the teachers’ block in the school grounds with my sister and her daughter.
Hi, I’m Luyando Sikamikami, and Mukwashi is my home from home. I grew up at the school because my parents lived and taught here (my father was the first head teacher, and my mother is still one of our deputy heads). I suppose they’re the reason I became I teacher.
After graduating from David Livingston College in 2019, I volunteered at Mukwashi to gain teaching experience. I must have been doing something right as I was soon offered a full-time position. I now teach English, Social Studies and Civic Education in the secondary school.
I’m single, and rent a couple of rooms on a local farm as there aren’t enough houses in the staff compound for everyone.
Like most Mukwashi teachers, I speak six languages (including my mother tongue, Tonga) and faith is a big part of my life. I also enjoy music, action films, and making new friends.
My name is Moses Hara. As a child, my favourite sport was gymnastics. While most of my friends were busy kicking a ball, I was doing somersaults, back flips and cartwheels. I’m still doing them today!
I’m the eighth of nine children, so it wasn’t easy for my parents; but they did what they could. It’s thanks to their encouragement I’m where I am today – teaching secondary PE and primary Maths at Mukwashi.
At secondary school, I was mocked by my fellow students because I struggled with maths. In the end, their jeers motivated me to become a maths teacher – so that I could help others to succeed at the subject.
There’s a saying here in Zambia, ‘a teacher can be anything’; so, apart from teaching, I am also a government education researcher and a small farmer raising chickens and growing maize.
Working parents cover about 70% of the school’s running costs through their fees; international supporters contribute the other 30% — and all the capital costs.
Because most local people earn less than £70 per month, we keep fees as low as possible: £6.80 per month for primary pupils, and £8.85 per month for secondary pupils.
Even so, this is unaffordable for many parents — and, in 2022, friends and supporters are funding 50 free places for the most disadvantaged.
The school is owned by Mukwashi Trust School Ltd — a non-profit making company which is limited by guarantee and registered in Zambia (120190009921).
This was established in December 2019 by five supporters in the UK & Canada to nurture the school after the original trust had lapsed and been dissolved. The company now has 15 members (eight Zambian, four British, three Canadian) who are legally responsible for the school, and provide its overall governance, direction and strategy.
Each year, the members elect four unpaid directors to provide the school’s senior managers with regular support, scrutiny and governance. The directors for 2022 are Ms Magrietha Botha & Ms Leslie Jeffery in Zambia, Ms Laura Manni in Canada and Mr Timothy Pain in the UK.
In 2021, the directors appointed Ms Mulemba Sakuwaha as the school’s Head Teacher, and Mr Crispin Shamufundo & Ms Mwangala Lubinda as the Deputy Heads. They lead and manage the school, and are supported by a team of eighteen full-time staff, two part-time staff and several regular volunteers.
Academically, the school is advised by one of the founding members, Prof Iram Siraj OBE, Senior Research Fellow at Jesus College and Professor of Child Development & Education at Oxford University.
“This small community school is inspiring vulnerable students to believe in themselves, reach for their dreams and never give up. It’s transforming their community for the better – one child at a time.
The staff and students exude a thirst for knowledge and joy of learning which is both extraordinary and contagious. I’ve visited top private schools all round the world which spend as much money educating one child as MTS does educating an entire school. In my opinion, the results Mukwashi achieves are far more impressive.”
“In Mukwashi, I see a blossoming of talent, and a desire to excel and make a difference which gives back to the community. I see perseverance and a joy for life which makes obstacles turn into opportunities for developing problem solvers. Where others see despair, the Mukwashi community see resilience and a training for strength.”
“I’ve seen first-hand how small gifts of service and finance have created great opportunities for learning and growth, as well as deeper understanding for my students and me. Mukwashi is a special community where the joys of questioning, wondering and learning are contagious.”