My placement at Trashback as part of the Challenges Worldwide ICS (International Citizen Service) programme was not my first time working in the compounds with the local people. But ICS gave me yet another opportunity, or rather challenge, to work in the compounds in Lusaka. The difference this time however was that I was interacting mostly with the children in the compounds.
The core business of Trashback is to deliver adult education workshops and awareness programmes on proper waste management and recycling in the compounds, however during our placement, my counterpart and I were working on an education awareness programme for the children in schools in the compounds. We started our programme with a survey which we carried out in 8 compounds in Lusaka, we handed out surveys in 12 schools across 8 compounds and we had such close and interesting encounters with the children. Most of the children could not read and write; many were too young to do so. After collecting all of the data we needed, the major gaps in waste management behaviour were identified and a report was compiled. Later we developed a workshop for the education programme.
We managed to run 4 workshops in 4 compounds in 2 weeks and it was an awesome experience with the children in the compounds. Most of the children can speak little or no English, and express themselves in Nyanja (a local language) so we conducted the workshops in Nyanja to communicate with them as effectively as possible.
Most of the children responded positively to behaviour change towards waste management in their homes, schools and communities. Many of them were excited about sharing what they learnt with their family and friends while others felt challenged about the huge task they would have to later change their families opinions on the community’s attitude towards waste management. However, the children were encouraged to believe that they would foster behavioural change in the school and home. That change would begin with them.
It was an awesome and touching experience for me to have such an intimate interaction with the children from the compounds. Some compounds like Misisi do not have a government school. All there is are way below standard community schools which cater for children from two other neighbouring compounds which results in huge class sizes. Such schools have little or no learning facilities and materials, let alone qualified teachers, reducing the standard of education. The teachers are often volunteers and are only paid if the community can afford it.
The standards of education in most of the compounds are such that children in the seventh grade who are as old as 14-15years old (should be 11-12 years) are not able to read and write. However, most of the school going age children do not go to school, while even more stop school before secondary because they will have to go to “expensive” schools. Most parents would rather let their children venture into income generating activities such as selling on the streets to help the family financially rather that “wasting” money paying for their school fees.
My experience in the ICS programme has been very inspiring and challenging, I have learned great lessons from the least expected persons and places and, as I told the children in the compounds, to be the change – I feel more compelled to be the change in every way I can.