The following is an e-postcard from Kai Iizuka, a GlobalGiving Representative in Zambia.
I was shown around the Factory Room where many of the clothes, bags, female sanitary pads and various other textile items are handmade by Chikumbuso community members. Rose, the assistant teacher, told me how the workers are first taught in the adjacent room for the first year on how to use sewing machines and learn the basics of tailoring. They then move on to the Factory Room where they are able to create handbags, laptop cases, dresses and even suits to sell and make a living for themselves.
Anderson was the first male student to graduate from the class and told me that he had been working at Chikumbuso for four years now. At this point, he can make a whole suit from scratch according to his friend Mike. Mike had only recently graduated from the tailoring school and explained how he was working here to be able to make enough money to go back to school. As he was fixing up the hem of a suit trouser, we discussed how cool it would be to be able to make your own suit, and he told me how he was glad that he was learning a skill that would later on prove to be very useful and not only for making a living, but everyday applications as well. I wish him all the best and hope he manages to attain the higher level education he is working for.
On the surface, Akhim and Robson seem like any other 9th grade boys you would see in Lusaka. Wearing their brown school uniforms with bags slung over their shoulders, they explained to me that Akhim wants to become a pilot and Robson wants to be a TV journalist reporting for the movie channel in Zambia. Both of them are having their secondary school education funded by Chikumbuso and are hoping to go on to university to pursue their career goals.
Seemed like a pretty normal Chikumbuso student story and I was ready to wrap up, when it came out that Akhim is really smart. Not just really smart, but, apparently two years ago, he got the highest grade EVER in the annual standardized test provided by the ministry of education, kind of smart. This helped draw the public’s attention to Ngombe PTA School and cement their place on the map. In fact, he did so well I was informed that the government, in recognition of his achievement, has promised to name a small street after him. Mr. Andrew, his fifth grade teacher, later told me that the highest score that they had this year came nowhere close to what Akhim had.
Not to be outshone by his friend, Robson explained how he is in the drama group at his school and often performs as a drummer. He has performed at Showgrounds, a massive area in Lusaka with a number of different venues where big events are hosted, including the parading of the African Cup trophy when Chipolopolo won two years ago. There is no doubt in my mind that both these boys will be going places, and I wish them the best of luck.
Ceaser, a small girl with big round eyes, has been with Chikumbuso since 2004 and her favourite subject is English. With five siblings, she explained to me that her family couldn’t afford having her attend secondary school without Chikumbuso’s help. She told me that she wanted to become a doctor in the future because she wanted to help people and is incredibly grateful for everything that Chikumbuso has done for her and her family. Two of her younger siblings are still attending elementary in Chikumbuso.
After graduating from the sixth grade, children are sponsored to attend the Ngombe PTA School by Chikumbuso to receive secondary school education. I was informed that everything is paid for from the tuition fees to the books and bags, allowing children that could otherwise not afford it, receive higher education. The school also offers classes in the evenings for adults that have not had a chance to finish their high-school education.
The class I visited was a 7th grade class of about thirty students, all from Chikumbuso save one. When asked why all of these children from Chikumbuso were in the same class, the senior teacher Doreen explained to me that grades were split according to ability and that the children from Chikumbuso consistently ranked the highest. I was very much impressed by the quality of education that these children were receiving and am glad children like this are given an opportunity to excel in school.