During 2021, we are prioritising seven urgent school improvements projects: you can read about them below.
Already, the generosity of Mukwashi’s supporters has provided all the funds we need for our first two projects: an ‘Early Years’ Learning Centre‘ and a ‘full set of textbooks and reading scheme books‘.
Friends and supporters donated the £9,500 ($12,750) needed for these two key improvements, and our 50 youngest children are now learning in a lovely new facility, our 140 Lower Primary pupils’ reading is being boosted by two ‘Afro-centric’ reading schemes, and our 280 Primary and Secondary pupils are benefitting from the best available text books.
Our main project is: ‘running drinking water & clean flushing toilets for all’. We’ve now completed the plans and enabling works, and are waiting for building permission from the local authority. We hope to begin the works at the start of September.
We use all ‘regular gifts’ (weekly, monthly and quarterly donations) to increase the number of free places we provide to the most disadvantaged local children. These are local children who are either orphans, or whose family income is less than £15.50 ($22.50) per month.
This year, we are providing our 55 most needy pupils with a free place (and 9 with a heavily discounted place). Ideally, we’d like to increase this to 70 free places for the poorest and most vulnerable in our community by the end of the year.
At the moment, 30 regular supporters fund 30 of the free places, and we are having to cover the rest from ‘one-off’ gifts. This means we urgently need to recruit another 25 regular givers to fund 25 of our most disadvantaged children.
We’ve now finished converting our old ‘Head Teacher’s house’ into a specialist ‘care & learning’ unit for our Early Years’ children. This has allowed us to use the old Early Years’ classroom as an additional primary classroom – which has transformed the way we operate.
Our new facility contains a large classroom, a small ‘nap’ room, a store and toilets. The site and garden are protected by secure fencing, and the children have a large, sheltered, paved outside play-area.
We’ve also bought 45 new desks and chairs from the workshop at Lusaka Central Prison for the additional primary classroom.
It would be lovely if we could also raise the extra funds to provide our small children with some climbing, sitting, swinging, digging and water play equipment to help them learn through creative play.
For our first twelve years, we had no text books. In 2018, we were given fifty textbooks in two subjects (English and Science) and all our secondary pupils shared them. We’ve never had any textbooks for our primary children, and we’ve never had any reading scheme books for our infant children.
Now, thanks to the generosity of Oxford University Press, Gadsden Books in Lusaka, and our supporters, we have been able to purchase 2,500 textbooks. All upper primary and secondary pupils now have their own textbook for every subject in the school curriculum (except PE).
Staff have been overwhelmed with excitement and gratitude at what this means for their teaching and for their pupils’ education.
We’ve also purchased OUP’s WAG and AWEH! phonics reading schemes. These are special schemes for African children with English as their first additional language. They were finally delivered at the start of the current covid closure – so staff are currently being trained in using them.
We’ve also been able to buy 200 ‘afro-centric’ books from ‘New Africa Press’ and Longmans’ ‘Junior African Writers Series’ for our library, and our pupils have been mesmerised by holding and reading books which reflect their own culture.
Back in 2018, we installed modern toilet facilities for our secondary girls. However, all our primary children and secondary boys are still using elderly, primitive squat-toilets and latrines which are unacceptably poor and dilapidated (and far too few for our current pupil numbers).
Our main goal for 2021 is to build hygienic, sustainable toilets for all our children which will last the school at least 40 years.
Although our modern girls’ toilets are impressive, we have learnt that installing toilets which need to be lit by electricity is not the wisest approach, and that traditional ‘modern’ toilets struggle without a reliable water supply.
After a lot of work, we’ve finally found a non-drinkable water supply which we can develop to flush toilets. We plan to demolish our current old toilets and replace them with one block containing 20 modern toilets, 6 ‘trough’ sinks, 4 ‘trough’ urinals and 2 showers for the whole school. We will re-use our old septic tanks and use this new supply of ‘unclean’ water.
In April, we emptied, tested and repaired our old septic tanks and soakaways to make them ready for the new toilets.
The Lloyd Wilson Partnership, a UK firm of architects, designed the new facility (pro bono), and Mr Tonny Makosa, of A Plus Urban Technics, has finalised and costed the plans. We are currently seeking building permission from the local authority.
Inflation in Zambia is currently 23%; this means our the project will cost the equivalent of £40,000 ($56,000). Currently, friends and supporters have provided or pledged £30,000 ($41,000) towards this, and we are actively seeking friends who will contribute the balance.
We rarely have any day-time electricity, which means no power for our equipment, so a solar ‘back-up’ system would provide us with working lights and equipment. We’d like to install five systems (one per block): each one would cost about £4,500 ($6,000), but would last us 40 years.
One improvement goal for 2021 is to install our first solar system!
Is there a school or church or company somewhere which would make this their charity objective for 2021?
In Zambia, employers must provide staff with accommodation or an allowance set at 30% of salary. Five staff (and extended families) currently live on-site in an old, cramped, sub-standard staff-block with little privacy: they deserve better.
We would like to provide adequate modern accommodation on-site for at least 12 staff, and to convert the existing block into a simple hostel for visitors, volunteers, student teachers, etc, but we know this will not be possible for a few years yet.
This year, we have installed ceilings in all our current accommodation, so the staff have some privacy, and will shortyly be redecorating them. This is costing about £1,100 ($1,500), and we are paying for this from our general funds..
Building on-site accommodation for all our staff would save £4,000 ($5,250) in Zambian housing and travel allowances in 2021, and more (because of inflation) in succeeding years. So this project would save money in the long-term, as well as improving our staff’s quality of living.
Do you know anyone who would lend us the money to build this, or who would act as our guarantor for a commercial loan?
Outdoor assemblies, meals and PE lessons are not much fun in our four-month rainy season. A simple hall (which we could hire to church and community groups at evenings & weekends) would transform our school and community life.
One target in 2021 is simply to make detailed plans and costings, and to start seeking major partners who would be willing to fund this.
Do you know anyone who could help us?
In a scattered rural community like ours, a school bus is a basic necessity. The ancient bus we bought in early 2020 is transporting 200 pupils to and from school, but it only seats 32 at a time – and, if we are honest, it is a tired old banger which breaks down much too often and is in very poor condition. Parents have started to complain!
We don’t want to be greedy, but a bigger, more reliable, school bus (preferably a Toyota) would be a great help! Unfortunately, even a reliable old Toyota bus costs £9,000 ($12,000) in Zambia, so we can only dream at the moment.
Does anyone have a suggestion or proposal?