It was a delight to be able to spend some time at PIZZ School last month. I was impressed by the lively children I met and the dedication of the staff.
I had a chance to talk to the teachers and to a number of the students. I have been visiting for many years now so many of the students recognise me and I am getting to know a few familiar faces. It was coming to the end of their winter and the weather was quite varied. There were long periods when I experienced cloudless skies and then a few windy and overcast days would follow. Despite being winter, the temperature rarely failed to reach 20°C during the day – though at night it sometimes fell below 10°C – which is cold if you have no heating (and possibly no blanket).
The children are working hard on the garden watering and planting crops. The tomatoes have done well and some were sold to provide extra funds – the children who helped were treated to some sweet potatoes. While I was in Zambia another 1,500 tomato plants were transplanted. The income will buy pens and notebooks for the students that cannot afford to buy them. The garden is also important in teaching important life skills to the students. In Zambia most poor families need to supplement any small income they might get by growing their own food.
Along with Kai – our visitor from Global Giving – I was treated to a selection of sketches, songs and poems from the students. I was impressed by how confidently the children performed. This demonstrated just how far these children had progressed.
The school started as a single classroom. Now some of the children have left PIZZ school and are about to graduate from local Secondary Schools. It was a common cry from the children that we should try to find them funds to complete their studies – even after leaving PIZZ school. Fortunately Mrs. Sianga has managed to pay the Secondary School fees for some of the children, with help from Hands Around the World and your donations. One student who expects to do very well in her exams wants to become a doctor – we will try to help her to go to medical school. I was also delighted to hear of another student who has taken a different route and is making a living as a professional musician.
It is clear that lives are being changed through this project and with your help we will continue to improve the lives of the children of Monze.
Thank you for your help.
We do have some unfortunate news before we give the positive progress updates. Unfortunately, one of the children died recently. Bowas was a young boy in grade 4 – about 11 years old. Zambia has one of the lowest life expectancies in the world and unfortunately childhood deaths are far too common. Our thoughts are very much with his family and friends who are trying to cope with this tragedy.
The school children have been busy in the school garden, planting tomatoes and other vegetables. It is currently the dry season so the plants need to be watered using buckets. The school has a borehole and hand pump which supplies good clean water.
Some of the school tables and benches used by the students have become damaged over the years. A programme has been started to repair them.
A trip to Livingstone is being planned for some of the children. At Livingstone there is the Victoria Falls, the Zambesi and a National Park where elephants, white rhinos, buffaloes and hippos can be seen, together with other animals and birds. This will be a very exciting trip for the children.
Examinations start in about two weeks and the necessary preparations are well under way.
I am about to leave for Zambia very soon – arriving on 11th July. I am looking forward to meeting Mrs. Sianga once again together with her students. I always find it inspiring to see how the children are progressing, to view the developments within the school and to discuss future plans. With your ongoing support the school is able to continue to ensure that children have the chance of better future. I am very fortunate to be able to see first hand how any funds are being spent and to understand better the issues that are faced.
I will be able to provide another report soon which should include some new photographs.
Celebrations are an important part of life in Zambia, as they are throughout the world. This year, thanks to a small donation from one of the HANDS AROUND THE WORLD sponsors, the school was able to enjoy a special party to mark World Youth Day. 240 of the students attended this event which was marked with lots of singing, dancing, drumming and reciting poetry.
Most of the children have lost one or more parents - largely as a result of AIDS - and the children use these occasions to express some of the difficulties in their lives, as well as giving thanks for the opportunities given them through the education they receive at the school. At the end of the day the children enjoyed a good meal.
The rainy season has now finished – a bit too early in fact. Combined with flooding early in the year, this could mean a poor harvest and food shortages later in the year – these conditions have particularly affected the Southern Province, in which PIZZ school is situated.. At the school they have been able to grow good crops of okra and tomatoes, but the sweet potatoes and maize crops have failed due to lack of rain.
In addition to the academic studies at the school, Mrs. Sianga is keen to try to address some of the problems that her students encounter. This pastoral care for the students is a very important part of the ethos of the school, and it is important for the development of the students. Fortunately the school has a number of care workers who help, mainly on a voluntary basis.
The school has excellent staff who work hard, with limited resources, to give the students a chance in life. Many of these struggle on very low wages which are barely enough to provide food and accommodation. (PIZZ receives no funding from the government). The school would collapse without their dedication.
Most importantly the students are very well motivate and are thriving - those who have moved into secondary school are doing very well. Education is for many the key to escaping their lives of poverty, with your help someare beginning to achieve that dream.
The new school year is about to begin. In Zambia they are in the middle of the Rainy Season and these days the weather is unpredictable. As in many parts of the world, now the rain, when it comes, is heavier and more persistent than usual. As yet the flooding around Monze is under control although the rain has been very heavy, however more will fall between now and the end of March.
This year the children have planted some crops within the school grounds and are hoping that the rain will provide them with a good harvest. This was possible because, with the help of our supporters, the school is now fenced to prevent animals from eating the produce. The skills learnt in growing food are valuable for the students. In Zambia most families need to provide some of their own food in order to survive on an average of less than £1 a day.
The examination results are now out and twelve grade 7 pupils have passed enabling them to progress with a Basic Education. Three children have qualified to go on to High School. These results are very good in the light of the lack of textbooks. My experience in September made me realise just how much more difficult it is to teach children who cannot follow the lesson with a book.
Mrs. Sianga is keen to give the children as wide an education as possible. Towards the end of the dry season she was able to take the grade 8 and 9 students to Lochinvar which is a national park about 40 km from Monze. (Most students contributed something towards the costs). For most of the children this was a completely new experience. The park is known for the wide variety of birds including Fish Eagles, Malibu Storks and Secretary Birds. It also has a variety of animals including, Buffalo, Zebra and Wildebeest as well as a variety of antelope – the Kafue Lechwe which is unique to this area. Needless to say the children had a wonderful and very memorable day out.
When I meet with the teachers at the school the major concern is the limited teaching materials – particularly textbooks. I hope that during this year we will be able to report a substantial improvement in this situation.
With your help many children are gaining a valuable education and being provided with opportunities to improve their lives. Thank You.
Today I had a wonderful time back at school! I attended classes from grade1 to grade 7 at PIZZ school with the sole exception of grade 3 where a new teacher is awaited.
I was very impressed by the way in which the lessons were conducted. The limited number of textbooks means that much of the work is done using the traditional blackboard and chalk. The children are very attentive and are enthusiastic. I was surprised how much of the lesson for the grade 1 students was in English. I don't know how I would cope if I had to learn my lessons in a foreign language. Even after spending more than 2 years in Zambia my Chitonga is negligible – to my great shame..
The grade 1 students were learning about shapes as part of the mathematics curriculum. I was impressed by the way the teacher praised and encouraged the children. These children come from very disadvantaged backgrounds and most are unlikely to have had any previous exposure to English. I felt privileged to be part of a project which gives them the possibility to move away from a life of poverty. It is also a huge responsibility. These children need our support so that they are not given a false hope.
In grade 2 they were talking about birthdays when I joined them. I shared that my daughter has her birthday today, so they each drew a birthday card for Barby in their notebooks.
In grade 4 the class was also doing maths. They were learning how to calculate the cost of common items of shopping – I now know why everyone here has no problem calculating my bill and providing change. (Unlike my experience in the UK where the cashiers seem to rely totally on the till.)
In grade 5 they were being taught English, concentrating on proper nouns, and in grade 6 the subject was science - the topic evaporation and condensation. Here a small experiment was done with with a kettle and bottle of cold water.
My final class was grade 7. This is the first stage were an examination is taken to determine whether the child progresses to the next grade. These students sit their exams at the end of the month and were doing revision with the teacher. A girl read a story from a textbook about a university student who had been ill and had just tested HIV+. Of course for many their situation has come about because of the disease, but the subject is not kept hidden in Zambia. I was welcomed by the children reciting poems and at the end of the lesson some of the students introduced themselves. Most were being brought up by their grandmothers and three of them said that they had lost both parents by the age of 8 or 9. Unfortunately this is a very common story among these children.
Being with the children and teachers brought home to me just how important this project is for the future of so many. It is being among them and glimpsing some of their potential that brings the project to life for me.
Funding is always a problem when the students cannot afford to pay fees. The past year has been difficult and yet my experience today showed me that, despite limited resources, wonderful things are happening.
The children ended by pleading for continued support and I am sure you will continue to be generous.
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