We recently had the opportunity to visit and volunteer at a variety of local community schools within Lusaka. This was part of our community action day (CAD) which is a series of days where we give back to the local community outside of our business consultancy placement. We partnered with a local charity: Impact One initiative to support them in 11 local schools. Impact One Initiative is a non-profit organization providing vulnerable children in Zambia with hope and a future through education.
Supporting education is an area which means a lot to me; but I have always been cautious of volunteer tourism. Prior to my trip to Zambia I failed to grasp the fundamental challenges which Zambia’s education system faces. Though Zambia has made commendable progress in increasing access and gender parity, more than a quarter million children are out of school and 47% of those enrolled in school do not complete the primary cycle. There is also a clear disparity between the quality of schooling received between state funded schools and local community schools – with the vast majority of community schools relying on non-qualified local volunteers as teachers. It’s important to remember that education is not only a human right, but it is also an essential tool for individuals to break the poverty cycle and for building the human capital of nations.
By volunteering with community schools that are managed by untrained volunteer teachers, even for a short while, we were able to offer more personalised and one on one support. Many of us had never visited a local community school or had visited a compound (township) before – we were both nervous and excited. We had been warned to expect a very basic school however we weren’t quite prepared with what we saw. The school is beyond basic with no electricity, water, tables, desks and not even the basics of pens and paper. This shell of a building was the local school for 270 children aged between 2 to 13. The school was supported by two teachers who are both local volunteers and are lucky if they receive any income on a monthly basis. As much as the teachers were enthusiastic and wanted to teach, how can they possibly teach a class size of 135 children across such a variety of ages and with no materials?
During our day at the school we split the classes into more manageable sizes and facilitated fun, interactive English lessons. It is only when the school has volunteers that children are taught in smaller sizes and receive more one on one support.
Overall our first CAD was a real success. The children loved having more personalised learning session and the teachers were really grateful for this additional support. From a volunteer perspective, its always nice to have a day away from the office. But more importantly, it highlighted why we all came to Zambia to volunteer in the first place. It was a real grounding experience for all of us in the team. In our day to day we do not really witness the 60% of people who live below the poverty line in Zambia. The ultimate goal of Challenges Worldwide is to alleviate poverty and working with our SMEs, we hope to have an impact on a wider scale as we help the businesses grow their social impact with time.