This year, 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 have donated the £9,500 ($12,750) needed for these two key improvements, and we are now working hard to turn them into reality as quickly as possible.
We are now planning 2021’s main project – our water & toilet facilities – which will doubtless occupy us all year, and we start the ‘enabling works’ at the end of this month.
We use all ‘regular gifts’ (pledged weekly, monthly and quarterly donations) to increase the number of free places we provide to the most disadvantaged local children.
27 wonderful supporters are, between them, providing 48 of our most needy pupils with a free place (and 7 with a heavily discounted place) throughout 2021.
Ideally, we’d like to increase these numbers to 70 free places for the poorest and most vulnerable in our community by December. However, we’d need to recruit at least another 20 monthly givers to achieve this. Eventually, we’d like to be providing at least 100 free places.
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 our 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 ordered OUP’s WAG and AWEH! phonics reading schemes. These are special schemes for African children with English as their first additional language. We’re expecting them to arrive on a lorry from Cape Town sometime this month.
We’ve also been able to buy 100 ‘afro-centric’ books from ‘New Africa Press’ 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 in an unacceptably poor and dilapidated condition (and are 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 ‘open plan’ set of toilets for the whole school – reusing our old septic tanks and using this new supply of ‘unclean’ water.
In the ‘school holiday’ between Terms 1 and 2, we will do some unglamorous but essential ‘enabling works’ on out network of septic tanks and soakaways so that they are ready for the new toilets.
We are still costing our plans, but know they will cost well over £15,000 ($20,800). We will finalise this figure as soon as we can. Currently, friends and supporters have provided £8,600 ($11,800 towards this.
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 Jan & Feb, however, we installed ceilings in half our current accommodation so the staff have some privacy, and will do the same in the other half by summer. 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?