Maanu Mbwami

Although I’m having a great time, enjoying the sights and sounds of Zambia, the main reason I’m here,  of course , is the book bus project. I’ve now completed two weeks of my four week stint. The work is extremely rewarding but quite tiring, particulary  given the temperatures here at the moment.  We have a thermometer on the bus which recorded  35 degrees last Thursday afternoon !

A typical day starts around 7.00am. First one up puts the kettle on, on the way to the showers. Following breakfast, cereal and toast, we wash up and do last minute prep for the day ahead. The bus  usually rolls  out of the campsite at  around 8.15 and we reach our school f or the day about 40 minutes later. The drive out is usually very pleasant, the sun is invaraibly shining but it is also the freshest part of the day.

At  9.15 ish we  receive the first of four groups, usually a maximum of eight children, and we work through continuously for 4 hours without a break.  We work in the grounds of the school sitting cross legged on straw mats, which we relocate from time to time to seek a degree of shade. The sessions are a combination of group reading, 1:1 reading and follow up art and craft activities. 

After everything is packed back on the bus we are usually on the way back to Grubby’s by 1.30pm, and arrive around  2.00pm. We have a quick sandwich lunch and then spend a further hour or so planning for the next day. By around 3.00pm the working day is just about finished. 

The rest of the afternoon is usually spent: doing washing, writing up our logs/diaries, visiting the internet cafe,  shopping and preparing the  evening meal, and trying to enjoy  a little bit of  sunshine. After 5.30pm the sun starts to set rapidly and it is dark by 6.00pm!  That is the worst aspect of the book bus experience. However it does mean we can enjoy our evening meal beneath beautifully starry Zambian skies.

Last week the bus visited the Maanu Mbwami Community School for the very first time. This school is someway out of Livingstone and previously the original  book bus could not negotiate the roads to  reach it.  However our  new heavy duty,overland vehicle can just about make it, even if the journey is excrutiatingly slow and bumpy.

Maanu Mbwami means Knowledge is Power! The children, teachers and members of the local community gave us a royal welcome. It is a community school which provides free education (as opposed to a  government school which charges fees). 

The population in Zambia is generally poor. Many families cannot afford to send children to government schools as they have to provide a uniform and pay for books and equipment. The teachers at the government schools are qualified but  are on strike at the moment as they haven’t been paid!

Teachers in community schools are  un qualified volunteers. At Maanu Mbwami, only the headteacher is qualified.  The Maanu Mbwami School, like most we have seen, is built of  breeze block and concrete, with a corrugated metal roof. There is standpipe in the yard which  provides water but there is no electricty in the main school building. The classrooms are bare, with an old blackboard and some bench seats and desks available, but not always enough for everyone.  There are little or no resources. They rely on donations of paper and pencils. One of the volunteer teachers asked for a biro whilst we were there! The book bus will be loaning some books to the school.

The school grows vegetables in its grounds and feeds the children whenever it can.They are dependent on the World Food Aid programme, which I’m pleased to say we used to raise money for at Naunton Park School. The school has recently acquired a maize mill which they are very proud of. This is electrically powered and is available for community use. Maize flour is used to make nshema which I mentioned in a recent posting and which is an essential part of the staple diet.  

Having said all of this the children and satff are very happy. As ‘Cowboy Cliff’  said to me yesterday,  “If we wake up,  the sun is shining and we have a little food on the table we are happy!”

3 Responses

  1. Hi Phil. Just wanted to leave a note to say how much we are enjoying reading your blog. Your trip sounds amazing and you are having such wonderful adventures! I am going to print off some of your blog and take it in to read to the Reception children – we are going to look at what might be different there to things they experience at Naunton Park. Will also look at your postcard with them. We are getting ready for the arrival of the Comenius people this weekend – have arranged a trip to Gloucester after the meeting on Monday (wonder if we will get through it in time to visit Cathedral which closes at 5.30)! and then we are going to Oxford on Tuesday for the day with a stop at The Trout on the way back. I am sure you will be missed by us all and we will raise a glass to you and the wonderful work you are doing over there. Keep up the blog!! Viv x

    • Hi Viv
      Lovely to receive your comment. I’d love to come in and share some of my experiences with the children at NP if Richard will allow me to.
      Hope the Comenius visit goes well. Send my best regards to everyone. Have one for me in the Trout!

  2. Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

    Christian,Earn Free Vouchers / Cash

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