“[The school] was not like this,” said grade seven student Esther, motioning to the classroom block and students laughing and playing games during their recess break. “It was with wood. We were sitting on bricks.”
Esther started attending Makwati Community School in Kabwe, Zambia, when she was in grade three. At that time, the school gathered to learn in a small building made of split-plank logs covered in black plastic to keep the dust out and offer a bit of protection from the wind and sun. With no desks or chairs, the students held their books in their laps and sat on the bricks that would one day build their school.
Now in grade seven, Esther and her classmates no longer learn in the semi-dark on the ground but have moved into permanent school buildings. In 2013, the first block of five classrooms was completed, and in 2015, the main hall was added, followed by a block containing the head teacher’s office, kitchen and bathrooms in 2017. Still to be built is a second classroom block that will allow the classes to run simultaneously instead of split into a morning and afternoon sessions, as well as give each grade a classroom that is all ‘theirs'.
The teachers quickly noticed an improvement in the student’s academic performances after moving into the new classrooms as the children were more focused on learning and less focussed on pushing each other for the best seat or balancing their books.
For Paul, another grade seven student, his favourite part of school is reading the small collection of books in the corner of his class and playing football behind the school with his friends. The best part of moving into the classrooms in 2013 according to Paul was getting to sit at a desk to do his work.
Though much of the construction has been finished, there is still a need for finances to completely furnish the classrooms with desks, chairs and cabinets and to purchase teaching resources and materials. The grade one textbooks, for instance, are six years old and in need of replacement as they have passed through many eager little hands.
“We like school because if we learn, we can also help others,” Esther explained.
“People are really changing because of this school,” said Phoebe, who has been a teacher at Makwati School since its beginning.
When the school first started, the community did not recognise the full value of education. As the closest school is quite far–and getting there involves crossing a busy road–many parents did not care if their child attended school or not. Now, the parents bring the children to enrol them at Makwati School and encourage them to go to class and learn, according to Phoebe.
The teachers have also seen changes in the students themselves. “They want education,” Phoebe has observed. “They respect people and do many things [differently] than the way they were.”
“After we teach [the students] here, they also go to their homes and tell their parents what we have taught them,” said Phoebe. “If we say ‘don’t fight,’ when they go [home] they tell their parents that our teacher has told us not to fight.”
The Manna project provides the students with lunch every school day. Around noon the students eagerly line up to receive lunch – usually a portion of nshima (the Zambian staple food made from maize) along with a sauce or vegetable. For some, it is the only full meal they will receive that day. The programme was developed in 2013, after the teachers noticed the students were having difficulties staying focused, engaged and lacked energy to play during the break times.
“A lot of [the students] before we started [the Manna project] were suffering from malnutrition,” remembered Phoebe. “Sometimes even when you say, ‘You count,’ they were unable to count because they were sleeping. If you ask them, ‘Why are you doing that?’, it’s because they were not having enough food. ‘I did not eat enough yesterday, that’s why I’m dozing; that’s why I’m sleeping.’ Starting from that time when they brought Manna project, they were happy, playing, just like that.”
Started in 2010, as the result of an outreach to the community during the FIFA World Cup, Makwati School is the only school in the area and provides Christ-centred education to 289 students from pre-kindergarten to grade seven. 2018 marked the first year that the school has had a grade seven class, as each year they have added one class to accommodate the growing students. To continue on to grade eight, the students must write their exams and qualify for the public high school.
Please pray for more finances for the school to fully furnish and supply the classrooms as well as build the second block of classrooms. Pray for the students to continue growing in their knowledge of Jesus and that they will see the value of education. Pray for the teachers to continue sharing the love of God with the children around them.