One leaky tent houses pupils, principal in Zambezi

By: Faith Sankwasa

KATIMA MULILO: One sand-spattered tent is all the Liselo community has in which to hold classes for 43 learners, and for the principal to do his administrative work.

The pitched tent accommodates all pre-primary and Grade Four learners of the Mpacha Primary School, and also has a corner reserved as a ‘staffroom’ for its three teachers.

The school is located some 15 kilometres south of KatimaMulilo in the Zambezi Region.

It was set up in January 2014 at the request of community members from the surrounding villages of Mpacha, Lusozu and Liselo for their children, who had to walk long distances into town to attend lessons, or those affected by classroom overcrowding.

Such long distances to get to schools and back have been identified as a contributing factor to the high drop-out rates of children of school-going age in the area.

During a visit to the area on Tuesday, Nampa observed that the school does not have access to toilets, has no clean running water or tank, no electricity, no telephone and no playground equipment.

There are also no storage units for the safekeeping of textbooks and teaching materials.

The school has enough chairs and tables for all learners, but these are in a sorry state.

The tent is caving in at one side and when inside, learners complain of heat and/or rain which seeps through its roof.

School principal Collins Mulele told Nampa that the situation of having all learners taught under the same ‘roof’ and him working in the same space has been difficult, as he cannot concentrate with all the noise levels.

He explained that when the school was started, it had five tents, but these were taken away by the Zambezi Regional Council at the end of the school-year in 2014.

The school population only rose by one from the 42 learners registered last year.

“When the school was started, I was told that permanent brick blocks would be put up as classrooms for all grades, including an office block for the principal and the teachers’ staffroom.

I, however, do not know how far those plans have gone.

In the absence of having a proper school set-up, learners, the principal and teachers have all been cramped into one tent. We all have to relieve ourselves in bushes. This year, we had the poorest enrolment,” lamented Mulele.

He said the school-feeding programme is also affected as there is no place to store the food contents, and likewise no pots and cooking utensils to prepare meals for the children.

“Currently, our teaching materials and some textbooks are stored in a hut which was offered by one community member.

However, the feeding programme has been difficult to roll out as we heavily rely on volunteers to cook for the learners.

But if there is no one to cook the food, learners are encouraged to bring their own water bottles and packed lunch. This is why we cannot keep learners for afternoon lessons or activities,” Mulele stated.

Attempts to get comment from Zambezi Regional Education Director Austin Samupwa on the progress of building a school proved unsuccessful, as calls and text messages sent to his mobile phone went unanswered.