We are prioritising seven urgent school improvements projects in 2021: you can read about them below.
The generosity of Mukwashi’s friends and supporters has already provided the funds for our first two projects: an ‘Early Years’ centre‘ and a ‘full set of textbooks and reading scheme books‘.
During last December, friends and supporters 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 have now moved on to start planning 2021’s main improvement project – our toilet facilities – which will doubtless occupy us all year… .
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.
At the moment, 24 supporters (who have all started giving regularly since last October) are providing 38 children with a free place (and 12 with a heavily discounted place) throughout 2021.
We hope to increase these numbers during this year, so we are providing 70 free places to the poorest and most vulnerable in our community by December. However, we need to recruit another 26 monthly givers to achieve this. Eventually, we’d like to provide 150 free places.
We are converting our old ‘Head Teacher’s house’ into a specialist ‘care & learning centre for our Early Years’ children. This means we can use the room they have vacated as an additional primary classroom – which transforms the way we can operate.
During the Christmas holidays, local builders installed a large classroom, a small ‘nap’ room, a store and new toilets; and our staff painted the outside and inside. We will erect a large, sheltered play-area outside, and secure fencing, when our rainy season ends in March.
We have bought 45 new desks and chairs from the workshop at the local 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. Since 2018, we’ve had fifty textbooks, but only in two subjects (English and Science) to share between all our secondary pupils. We’ve never had any textbooks for our primary children, and we’ve never had any reading scheme books for our infant children.
Thanks to the generosity of Oxford University Press, Gadsden Books and our supporters, we have been able to order 2,200 textbooks – which means all our upper primary and secondary pupils will have their own textbook for every subject in the curriculum.
The first consignment of 1,200 textbooks has arrived in time for the new term, and staff are overwhelmed with excitement and gratitude at what this is going to mean for the new academic year.
We are also still determining which phonics reading scheme to order, as we want to use one which is culturally relevant and focuses on English as the first additional language. Whatever we select will have to be imported from Cape Town, so will not be with us until Easter.
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.
Our main goal for 2021 is to build hygienic, sustainable toilets for all our children which will last the school at least 30 years.
Although our modern girls’ toilets look 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 … .
We are investigating, therefore, the possibility of installing some of the new ‘water-less’ toilets which have been developed in recent years. We want to provide good toilets for our pupils, but it might be helpful to do this as part of a research project which assesses the different available schemes. This approach could benefit all African schools.
Whatever we decide to do, we guess providing toilets for all our pupils will cost at least £15,000 ($20,000). We will refine this figure as soon as we can. Currently, friends and supporters have provided £2,900 ($3,900) towards this.
We have no day-time electricity, which means no power for our equipment, but a solar ‘back-up’ system would provide us with working lights and equipment. We’d need 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.
In 2021, however, we will at least install ceilings in our current accommodation so the staff have some privacy. This will cost 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 ‘new-to-us’ bus we bought ‘on the cheap’ in early 2020 is helping to transport our pupils to and from school, but it only seats 32 children at a time – and, if we are honest, it is a tired old banger which breaks down rather too frequently and is in very poor condition.
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 ancient Toyota bus costs £9,000 ($12,000) in Zambia, so we can only dream at the moment.
Does anyone have a suggestion or proposal?