Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Bringing light and life to those who do the same

I’m constantly reminded why I’m here when I see the faces of the children, witness the commitment of the volunteer teachers, experience the beautiful singing, and encounter the genuineness of the people.  An additional “perk” is running into others that come for various reasons to support the Zambians.  The past few days I had such an experience.

Karl Klontz, Shane and Rev. Zimba
About 6 or 7 months ago Dr. Karl Klontz, a physician, contacted Dr Chilenje to ask about installing solar panels in Malawi or Zambia.  It was decided that this would be an excellent opportunity for Chasefu Theological College to have power.  The seminary students are housed in a small hostel with only small individual solar lights.  Dr. Klontz and his recent college graduate friend Shane, spent several days along with Rev. Zimba completing the project. 

The solar panels were installed on the roof the first day. 
The wiring from the panels to the large batteries as well as light fixtures, took a few more days.  Finally the hostel has light and the students have the ability to charge their cell phones and lap tops. 
Mubuchi gets ready to switch on the lights
There is a shortage of Presbyterian ministers here and the college is hoping to continue to grow and train more for ministry.  Projects like this one provide infrastructure to support this growth.

While visiting the hostel and witnessing “light” coming to the students, I was also able to visit the borehole financed by our family and friends; another project that provides infrastructure.  A few years ago our son Evan and daughter-in-law Sarah wanted to do something for Zambia in honor of their dad, Bob.  They had saved a large sum of money that started the project.  At the time of Bob’s mother’s death some friends and family donated funds in her honor.  It was her wish to bring water somewhere in Zambia. After consulting with mission co-worker Nancy about possible places for a borehole, we decided on Chasefu where seminary students are trained.  With the funds from our children, our friends, and the balance from us, the borehole project was purchased.  Chasefu not only trains Presbyterian ministers but is developing a demonstration farm that will generate income for the seminary.  The borehole will also bring water for irrigating the farm.  I was pleased to not only see the seminary students using the borehole but several women and children from the nearby village filling their containers.

Some of the seminary students posing with me.

Boreholes and solar projects can change lives.  Women no longer need to walk several kilometers to and from the stream each day for water.  A borehole can save hours of time and provide healthy water for drinking, cooking, and bathing.  Solar projects allow students to study longer and communicate more effectively through use of computers, cell phones, and other electronics.  Providing more light and life giving water to the seminary students seemed fitting since they bring spiritual light and life to those they serve.
Shane poses with seminary students
Dr. Klontz is thanked
Words of gratitude

If you are interested in donating to either a solar project or borehole let me know.

Friday, October 23, 2015

School in the Bush

During the 1920s the British government asked Victor Murray to go to Africa and visit various schools in the colonies.  He wrote a book called School in the Bush documenting his findings. While the British looked down on the Africans, thinking their vernacular was too simplistic to understand complex concepts and thus needed to learn English, Mr. Murray saw the complexities of their languages and culture and argued for allowing them to be taught in both English and the local language. The term “the bush” is sometimes still used today meaning the rural area or village.  Yesterday I began my visits to the CCAP community schools in Eastern Province out by the Malawi border.  As we bounced along dirt roads in our mini-van looking out at the brick and clay houses still made by hand, I thought about Victor Murray and how much has changed and how much looks much the same.  At times I feel a bit like Mr. Murray straddling my American culture while trying to understand the various nuances of the Zambian culture.
Dr. Chilenje and Nancy Collins
Wednesday morning we left Lusaka around 6 am and started off for Lundazi in Eastern Province.  The trip takes all day (12+ hours).  We were able to watch the sun rise and set in the same day while traveling in the car. My traveling companions included Nancy, the PCUSA Mission Co-worker whom Bob and I have known since 2011, Dr. Chilenje, professor, minister, and Synod of Zambia moderator, Dr. Karl Klontz and soon to be med student, Shane.  Karl and Shane are here to install a solar system at Chesefu Seminary. 
The solar instillation team: Karl, Shane and Rev. Zimba

The education team
My friend and recently appointed coordinator of the community schools for CCAP, Mabuchi, is also here from Lusaka.  She and I are visiting schools and reporting to the Synod.  While the rest of the group from Lusaka headed to Chesefu (about 45 minutes from here) Mabuchi and I met our hosts, Rev. Nehemiah and Moffat Zulu and started off visiting schools.  Each school has at least one teacher that has had training from me while the rest of the teachers are new.  Some of the teachers are government school teachers assigned to community schools as a way to support learning in rural Zambia.  Like their counterparts in Lusaka, the community schools in Eastern Province struggle to find adequate supplies, pay their teachers, and encourage the children to attend school regularly. Unlike Lusaka, the schools here receive more help from the government and thus have more resources.  There is also an acceptance of the practice of marrying off ones young teenage daughter in exchange for a cow or other payment, known as “early marriage.”  Some girls as young as 13 or 14 are married off, get pregnant, and never return to school.  In many villages this is an accepted practice.
Mr. Nyirenda models using a 100s chart for double digit addition

During the past two days we visited seven schools. Six of the schools have had training from me (and my colleagues) in the past.  At least one teacher at each school still remains from 2013.  As is the case in Lusaka, many of the strongest teachers have moved on and are no longer teaching.  Only a few teachers are continuing the practices they were taught.  There is much work to be done.
Children wanting a closer look at the "mazungu" who is visiting their village

These teachers practice multi-grade teaching quite effectively
Log entry from Rebecca and my visit in 2013 - Rebecca, did you write this?
Mabuchi points out her 7th grade classroom

Friday, October 16, 2015

School Visits in Lusaka

The CCAP community schools, like most community schools throughout Africa serve the neediest children, many are orphaned and living with relatives. Parents and guardians are asked to pay a small fee to help with teacher salaries and materials.  Most of the 8 schools in Lusaka receive little to no payment from parents yet continue to allow students to attend the school.  This means the schools are serving the needs of children but teachers are working without compensation, making it difficult to retain trained teachers. 
One of the new teachers who teachers because he cares about the children

Of the 30 teachers only 13 have remained since the training in April.  The other 17 are either new or have never attended training in the past. This is the case at Mandevu where all but one teacher I’ve trained in the past has left and the children have followed them to their new schools.  School enrollment is quite small compared to what it was previously. The school must work to build their program back again.
Teacher Fanley has remained at Matero

The teachers at Matero however have been there many years.  The school is growing in numbers and highly regarded in the community. The school serves children in pre-school through grade 4.  They would like to add teachers and grade levels but finding enough teachers is a challenge.  The pre-school and kindergarten program serves 70 children with two teachers! 
Teacher Rebecca with her 70 pre-school and kindergartners

As I visit classrooms I am encouraged by engagement strategies I see implemented.  Some of the teachers who have attended the trainings have passed these strategies on to the new teachers.  In the classrooms where teachers have received training I see students discussing and comparing answers, sometimes using math manipulatives, acting concepts out, teachers pausing before calling on students, checking for understanding and teachers teaching two grade levels at once.  
Students discuss with their partner and must agree before they raise their hands - Think Pair Share

In one school the seventh grade passing rate has been 100% for two years now.  The teacher believes her instruction methods have greatly improved from the training and coaching – thus learning has increased. 
Students work together to solve 2 X 7 using their 2 sets of fingers
Working together using stones as counter
A little more work is needed here on student engagement 
The increase in new untrained teachers however means that many of the teaching methods and strategies demonstrated in the CCAP schools are very traditional and not best practice.  This means starting at the beginning with most of the teachers. 

This week I have realized that even though the focus of this project is training teachers to build capacity and increase student learning, the need to retain teachers is also important.  Training might increase teacher effectiveness but if the trained teachers are no longer at the school then our students cannot benefit from the training.  This project should also include ideas for self-sustaining income generation to retain teachers. More posts on that later. 
A younger brother brings lunch to school for his older sister

Wifi has been quite a challenge this week making blogging difficult.  Hopefully I can find some solutions.  In the meantime I am not too concerned since technology challenges are all part of being in Africa.

One of the perks of this work -- cute children!
The cuteness overwhelms me sometimes!

The students at Linda wave good-bye

Monday, October 12, 2015

Adjusting to life in Lusaka and beginning school visits

I arrived here in Lusaka Thursday evening.  Dr. Chilenje and Nancy Collins were at the airport to welcome me.  Nancy is the mission co-worker for PCUSA will be my host during the coming weeks.  Bob and I have stayed with her on many occasions in the past.  Nancy lives on the campus of Justo Mwale University, a theological seminary.

The weather this week has been fairly typical for this time of year.  The temperatures reach into the 90s and cool down a bit in the evenings.  Nancy’s house takes awhile to cool off so it can be in the 90s inside her house until late in the evening.  I avoid going outside once the sun goes down even though it is a bit cooler, due to the mosquitoes. 

Since Zambia relies on the force of its great rivers to supply hydro-electric power to the county, when there is a shortage of rain there is a shortage of electricity.  Zambia has been experiencing a drought for a while now so Lusaka is participating in “power shedding,” or rolling blackouts. Life revolves around the power schedule which the power company posts on their website.  The power is generally out for 8 hours at a time each day.  The time varies depending on the day.  It can be during the day, evening or night.  There is also a time everyday when the water is turned off.  Therefore some planning is involved before taking a shower, washing dishes, doing laundry etc.  This also means access to the internet and for me, the outside world, is limited. 
Yesterday I went to the Mtendere church where my friend Rev. Gerald Phiri is the pastor.  
I was honored to witness the instillation of my friend Mabuchi who will be overseeing the community schools and the Strengthening Children groups for all of CCAP.  Mabuchi replaces Kondwani Nkhoma who passed away in June.  Mtendere is in the process of completing their new church building.  From the photo you can see they are waiting for the metal sheeting for the roof.  The service took place on what is left of their old building (now just a cement slab).  This will serve as the foundation for their new school building. This photo below shows some of the teachers with the blocks that will be used in the building.

Today began visits to the CCAP schools in Lusaka.  I went back to Mtendere to visit classrooms.  The teachers in the photo below are posing with blocks that will be The teachers who have attended trainings in the past were utilizing strategies they have been taught.  The new teachers however could benefit from training.  The grade one students were sharing their answers while the grade 5 teacher checked to make sure the students understood the math.

Finally, I was honored to help Dr. Chilenje, a distinguished professor at Justo Mwale University with his homework on education and teaching.  I found it rather humorous that I would be helping him.  He seemed to appreciate it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Visit to Swaziland

Although the focus of my project is training teachers in the CCAP, I have stopped off in Swaziland to visit some friends before embarking on the work in Zambia. The work in Swaziland is part of the African Leadership Partners.  Allow me to explain some of the endeavors here.

New Life Homes
Seeing a need to support orphans here in Swaziland, our friends Peter and Mary Jean Kopp started New Life Homes over a decade ago.  The ministry consists of 4 homes each headed by a Swazi mom who raises 8 – 10 orphaned children at a time.  The children are placed at New Life Homes through the social service agency of the Swazi government.  Many of the older children have grown and are in college or receiving technical training.  The homes are located on a large farm in rural Swaziland where the children have many opportunities to learn about and experience self-sustainable farming.  The farm raises a wide variety of vegetables and other crops as well as livestock such as chickens, cattle, goats, and pigs.

New Life School
Children on the farm as well as from the community have an opportunity to attend the school located on the farm. My friend Tiersa has been here for two years working with the pre-school and kindergarten program.  I got to visit her class the last two days.  She has been training two Swazi teachers who are ready to step in and take over the program when she leaves to go back to the US in December.  The children were engaged in all types of active learning.

The primary school extends to grade 7.  The grade sevens are currently preparing for their end of year exams.  (Like many places in Africa and the southern hemisphere, the school year goes from January through November.)  I am impressed with the progress the children are making overall. 

Off to Zambia

Early tomorrow morning I will be heading to the airport in Johannesburg, South Africa.  After 4 – 5 hour shuttle ride from Swaziland to the airport I will be on my way to Lusaka.  Lusaka and many parts of Zambia are experiencing severe power outages so internet and communication in general will be a challenge.  I will do my best however to maintain regular posts.