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