Janna School

“Don’t fail to do something just because you can’t do everything.”  –Bob Pierce

 

One of the highlights of our time in Zambia was our visit to Festus’ school.  His school is a community school, meaning that it receives no government aid.  Festus feels that the very best way to help his country is to provide education to his community.  To understand all this a little better I should tell you a little bit about public schools in Zambia.

 

The Zambian Public School System

Public school is not free in Zambia.  It costs about K400,000 ($80) for a child to attend primary school in Zambia.  It costs about K500,000 ($100) to attend secondary school.  This probably seems reasonable, until you consider that the average family living in the slums in Zambia earns only about K400,000 ($80) per year.  Overall, Zambia reports average annual family incomes at $4000 per year.  Aside from paying tuition to attend public school, families are also responsible to purchase uniforms for their children which cost about K500,000 ($100) per year.  Most families have several children, so if they are fortunate enough to be able to afford tuition and the uniform, they are rarely able to send more than one of their children to school.  Generally, in a public school classroom, there are around 80 children in each class with one teacher.  Public school teachers earn $100 per month during the school year, which isn’t enough to be able to even afford a home.  It costs $150 per month to even rent a house/apartment in Zambia, so these teachers are often forced to rent a single room or live in huts with their families.

 

Janna School, Ndola

Festus started a school at his church.  He named it the Janna School, which means “God Given.”  At his school, parents pay what they can afford to support the school.  If they can afford nothing, they pay nothing.  Their children are welcome there.  Festus has taken great care to minimize the school’s expenses, so he purchases school supplies for $5-$10 per child.  No uniforms are required, so the children can

come in clothes that they already have.  Festus has taken microloans from Americans to help the school, and he has gotten grants from charitable organizations in the U.S. to help purchase construction materials and supplies.  Some of his staff are volunteers from the church, others are paid teachers.  Class sizes are smaller than in the public schools.  Currently, 300 children attend the Janna School, and this fall, they will have grades K-7th grade.      The children attend school for half days 5 days per week.  Since we last visited two years ago, the school has added on a separate building for classes.  Originally, all the students met together in the church building.
Festus, being the wise man that he is, had gathered plans and materials over time to build a school, even though he had no one to build it for him.  A missionary team came to Lusaka last year for a building project, but found no plans or materials.  Somehow, this team came into contact with Festus, who had plans and materials waiting for them.  That team built the Janna School building instead of their original project, which wasn’t ready for them.

 

We visited the Janna School on a Saturday, a day the children aren’t normally in school.  We were a little sad that we wouldn’t be able to see the children, but Festus smiled and said, “We have arranged something for you.”  Sure enough, as we entered the church building that morning, we were greeted with the chorus of 300 Zambian children singing “We Welcome You.”  They sang several other songs for us (my favorite is below, “Make a Melody”), and the older children recited scripture for us.

We had brought trunks of school supplies, soccer balls, and cash donations (for purchase of desks and chairs for the classroom).  All in all, the team raised money for books, supplies, desks, and chairs for the kids at the school.

After we had given them the supplies, we were allowed to tour the school.  It has changed so much since we first visited.  Originally, there was only a church building for all the children to share.  Now, there is the church building, a separate school building that has several classrooms (and glass windows), the beginnings of a real bathroom, and a clean water tap.

While we were touring, the kids were allowed to go outside to play with the soccer balls that we’d brought for them.  They were so excited, and they wanted to talk to us, touch our hair and faces, and hold our hands.

 

Festus considers the school the most important thing that he does.  Festus told me again and again that if change is to come to Africa, it must come through the church.  Festus believes that the government is corrupt, from the highest office to the lowest civil servant.  Over and over, he has seen the government take aid from foreign nations and NGOs and keep it for themselves.  For example, a large organization offered a donation to help

community schools in Zambia like the Janna School.  Originally, the money was going to be distributed to the schools directly, but the government stepped in, saying if money was to be donated to the schools it should be given through the Ministry of Education.  Since then, Festus says that the community schools in Zambia haven’t seen a single cent of that money.  It was all kept by the government.  Festus plans to build reform in Zambia by educating the children and their parents, by providing for those who have less, and empowering the people to take care of each other when the government does not.

 

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try spending the night in a closed room with a mosquito.”  –African Proverb

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