We are a small charity that supports community and conservation projects in South Luangwa, Zambia

Bringing a smile to Zambia

July 2010

Malimba Community School – June 2010

Kukhala ndi kupunzira pamodzi – Living and Learning Together

Malimba School felt it was high time they gave their generous supporters and donors an up-date on how life is progressing in Mfuwe.

With each new school year students slot into the routine of school life and their average day seems very normal to them but it occurred to us that it is in stark contrast to a westerners’ school routine. So we thought it would be interesting to take you through the typical day of one of our star pupils.

We approached Andrew, the Deputy Head teacher, with our plan and he picked out the perfect student for us to spend the day with.

His name is Dyma Banda, he is 9 years old and is in Grade 5 at Malimba School.

Dyma lives with his mother, Cristina Banda, his 6 siblings, his grandmother and 3 cousins. It is normal for a family to support their siblings children in the event they are orphaned – sadly a common situation. In addition, single parent families are very common, and in fact nearly 40% of the pupils at Malimba are single or double orphans.

That said, despite 12 people being crammed into 2 very small huts and these losses and challenges being part of their everyday life, I have to say visiting their home in Chituloa Village was a very positive experience due to their innate hospitality and the obvious warmth and affection they have for each other. It also helped that I had a camera – every Zambian I have met loves nothing better than having their photo taken!

Some of Dyma’s Family

Dyma’s Home

Having met the family we then made the 2 km walk to Malimba School.

I naively pointed out Dyma had not had any breakfast and was given a funny look by his mother – the family don’t eat breakfast. That said Dyma looked perfectly happy as he trekked off in shorts and shirt clutching his old plastic bag full of his stationery needed for school that day.

His bag contained 1 pen and 2 half used text books. I had thought this was pretty meagre and worried he was ill equipped until finding most of his classmates did not even have a pen to write with! It turned out Dyma was one of the lucky ones.

As soon as we arrived at Malimba School the bell sounded for Friday’s assembly. Andrew, our deputy head teacher, explained assemblies were held every Friday as a routine but also on other weekdays if anything important needed to be announced.

I must admit my first Zambian school assembly was a curious affair. Firstly it was a lot more interactive than the ones I was used to.

The pupils lined up in rows facing Andrew who stood on the steps to address them. It took a fair bit of time for the rows to be in the order Andrew requested and despite the pupils being moved around for no apparent reason everything was handled in good humour. Andrew addressed each class moving from one side to the next in a chatty way.

First point on the agenda was the cold weather (Zambian’s idea of cold differs from that of the West, and the ‘freezing’ 10 degree morning weather was a sore point amongst everyone!). A pupil was selected from the school and was brought to face his colleagues as Andrew emphatically pointed out that he was appropriately dressed for the cold and all other students should copy him. The pupil then returned to his row feeling pretty chuffed with himself – he was the lucky one who had a coat, whereas poor Dyma was wearing shorts and a thin sweater.

Next topic, hygiene, and a less fortunate pupil was selected to stand in front of his peers as an example of someone who had not washed properly that morning. I have to say from an outsider looking in I could not see a significant difference between him and his friends but all the pupils looked on as Andrew pointed out his very short hair was untidy!

Lastly, the toilets and their cleanliness became a source of heated debate. And here the pupils laughed and answered back making jokes. The Deputy Head was totally un-phased by this disorder and laughed along happily about the untidy latrines.

After possibly the most intriguing assembly I have ever witnessed everyone was dismissed to class and filed off in different directions.

The classrooms are basic with tables along the sides of the room and a huge black board propped up against the wall. Students wriggle excitedly in their seats, some in uniform, some not.

The teachers are very familiar with the pupils and appear to have a relaxed and friendly way with them. That said the pupils are very courteous, standing up when adults enter the room and saying ‘Good morning’ in English as I appeared camera at the ready.

There was no “mucking about”, Malika Sakala, the grade 5 teacher who has been at Malimba for over 3 years, moved straight into the lesson. I was delighted to see Dyma immediately shot 6 foot into the air waving his hand – he was the first to fill in the missing word on the black board and when he answered the question successfully all his classmates clapped for him.

As soon as the pupils had finished filling in the gaps on the board they were given sentences to write in their text books. It was poignant to watch some students waiting until their classmates had finished so they could borrow their pencils. However, they all seemed really excited by the learning process and Dyma was in his element scoring very good marks from the teacher.

I was later told that particular class (English) had been moved to the earlier time to coincide with my visit as Dyma is very strong in this subject. Unfortunately he struggles with maths which was conveniently moved to the end of the day when I was not going to be around! I was touched by the teachers sensitivity as she understood how exciting it was for Dyma to be photographed and to have someone take such an interest in him. He even showed me his book when it was marked.

On a typical day for Dyma lessons start at 7.30 am. They have a break for breakfast at 09.40 where they get to enjoy food cooked by local volunteers and donated by the World Food Programme – a fantastic highlight for a child who left home at 7am, walked 2 kms and sat though 2 hours of lessons on an empty stomach. Classes continue up to 12.40 leaving the students the option to play sports in the afternoon up until 16.30.

Sport is a real highlight for the Malimba students, they are brought together to have fun and also to bond through competition against rival schools. The joy of this was significantly increased when the Make Me Smile charity generously donated funding to get proper sports kits for the School.

I was lucky enough to witness the handing over of the kits – it was a fantastic moment. It was hard to work out who was more excited the teachers or the pupils! The teachers checked it all to make sure everything ordered arrived safely – there were a few wistful looks as they saw the matching shirts, shorts and socks complete with numbers. The goal keeper’s kit was also wonderful. Luckily the teachers also found the whistles so were delighted to be able to use those to referee in the future.

From there no time was wasted and the kit was given to the school netball and football teams. Naturally, this was a big event and many people from the village came to watch (young and old alike!).

Then the school teams rushed off to try on their kit; they looked fantastic. It was obvious they got a real sense of pride and importance from receiving the kit and it was very touching to watch them. Thank you so much to Make Me Smile for giving the teams such a wonderful moment in their school career.

The only thing left to say is, as ever the school is striving forward thanks to the commitment of sponsors, the community and support from Christina and Adrian Carr and Tribal Textiles. However, there is a real need for continued sponsorship to ensure the school is able to keep running, ensuring volunteer teachers are given fair allowances to match the dedication they show each day, to continue teacher training, infrastructure improvement and also ensuring pupils like Dyma are able to continue to have the benefits of an education. We would be very grateful for your continued support and donations.

Girls Netball Team

Boys Football team

The Malimba children thank you for your support.