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 17 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 the most deprived and vulnerable 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.
Working parents cover about 40% of the school’s running costs through their fees; international supporters contribute the other 60% — and all the capital costs.
Because most local people earn less than £75 per month, we keep fees as low as possible: £17 per term for primary pupils, and £27.50 per term for secondary pupils. Even so, this is unaffordable for many parents — and, in 2021, friends and supporters are funding 48 free places to the poorest.
“I’m Elvis, and I’m seventeen. I started school at Mukwashi when I was five. At the beginning, I wasn’t doing well and didn’t understand much, but the teachers were very patient with me.
My father died when I was twelve, and my mother couldn’t continue to pay my fees as she earns very little. I was about to stop school, but the teachers heard and arranged for me to have a free bursary place. I ‘m now in my final year, grade 12, and doing well: my dream is to become a farmer…”
The School is owned by Mukwashi Trust School Ltd — a non-profit making company limited by guarantee registered in Zambia (120190009921).
The company was established in 2019 by a small group of committed supporters in the UK, Canada and the US to nurture the school after the original trust had lapsed and been dissolved. These are the company ‘members’ who are legally responsible for the school.
At a day-to-day level, the company is managed on behalf of its members by four directors: Ms M Botha & Ms L Jeffery in Zambia, Ms L Manni in the US and Mr T Pain in the UK. Between them, they have over 40 years’ experience of managing charities in the UK and Africa.
The directors have appointed Ms M Sakuwaha as the school’s Acting Head Teacher, and she leads a team of seventeen full-time staff, three part-time staff and several regular volunteers.
The school is advised by one of the founding members, Prof I 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.”