Learning Under the Mango Tree

Reporting by ChildFund Africa

As with most successful projects, this one in Zambia began with the community coming together.

Parents in the Mumbwa district’s Shikapoli community started talking about their children’s future. They agreed their children needed more preparation before starting primary school. With 15 children age 3-6, the community found a teacher and temporarily set up class in a church compound in 2006.

When the church could no longer accommodate the school, the parents didn’t give up, instead they moved the children under a large mango tree. As the pre-school continued under the tree, the Parent Committee continued discussing other options. They approached the chief of the community, who, after some convincing, gave a plot of land to build a permanent pre-school.

Eager for learning.

With the help of a government child development agency and ChildFund Zambia, the parents were able to build a one-room school. ChildFund Germany donated materials for a playground. Soon attendance increased, and enrollment reached 45 students (25 girls and 20 boys). Children attend class daily from 8 a.m. until noon. The school is not able to provide snacks, but a few children bring drinks from home sometimes.

Crowding for the top spot.

ChildFund ensured that the teacher received the necessary training to teach pre-school. Initially, the teacher received a minimal monthly salary from parents’ contributions to the school. But some of the parents are not able to make their monthly contributions of US$2, which means the teacher is not receiving a regular monthly salary. What motivates her to continue even when she is not paid? Giving support to her community gives her happiness, she says. She knows what it means for children to be without schooling.

Though they are happy to reach the stage they are at now — from the shade of a tree to a classroom — the Shikapoli Parent Committee notes that challenges still remain. The number of pre-school children is increasing, and the single classroom does not provide enough space or desks to accommodate all of the students who wish to enroll. In addition, the school lacks water and restroom facilities.

Once again community parents are coming together to address the school’s financial constraints. They are discussing how to approach the government and possibly other nongovernment organizations to fill the funding gaps. They are committed to keeping the school going for their children.

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