ARTHUR MWANSA, Chama
VIOLET Banda and Cynthia Kasakula, both teachers at Kapalakonje Primary School in Chama district, Muchinga Province, are overjoyed for one simple reason; their school has just been electrified.
â€œI am thrilled; the arrival of solar power in Chama has made a major impact on our lives and that of our learners. Without good lighting system, our teaching curriculum would be compromised. Honestly speaking, Kapalakonje Primary School has been transformed,â€ Ms Banda says.
â€œWe are no different from people in town now. We can now use our refrigerators, laptops and watch TV. I can simply say that we are now covered; I do not know how I can even express my feelings, as you can see, I am only able to shed tears of joy.â€
Ms Kasakula says before the installation of solar power at the school, pupils needed to pay for their own kerosene for the lamps.
â€œWithout kerosene, it meant no studying. Pupils just went to sleep at night. This has always happened to pupils. The lack of adequate studies has worsened the grades for most pupils,â€ she says.
â€œThat is why these lights are so important, we are happy that such dark days are coming to an end for the 459 pupils at Kapalakonje.â€
Alice Goma, a grade nine pupil at the school, says the installation of solar power at the institution will result in improved grades especially in computer lessons.
Government through the Rural Electrification Authorityâ€™s (REAâ€™s) phase two sustainable solar market project (SSMP) this year set aside U$298,958 for the installation of solar power in rural communities of Chama district.
The target was to electrify two chiefâ€™s palaces, 13 schools, 50 staff houses and four health centres.
Chama district commissioner Josphat Lombe is happy that chiefs Tembwe and Chifundaâ€™s palaces have benefited from REAâ€™s SSMP.
Mr Lombe recently commissioned the solar power project installed at Chamaâ€™s Kamphemba Primary School, where two staff houses and a three classroom block have been powered at a cost of US$4,000.
Speaking at the commissioning ceremony, Mr Lombe asked the district education board secretaryâ€™s (DEBSâ€™s) office to start thinking of upgrading the school into a secondary school to accommodate the increasing number of pupils at the learning institution.
The school is currently accommodating up to 778 pupils running from pre-school to grade nine.
Mr Lombe said the government attaches great importance to the enhancement of the education sector, especially in rural areas.
â€œThis is why we have redesigned the school curriculum to introduce computer lessons in all schools. Government has also seen the need to bring electricity to rural areas, it is the more reason we have introduced the solar power project through REA,â€ he said.
Mr Lombe also assured the residents of Kamphemba village of more development initiatives.
â€œOnce we put up power and install the water reticulation system, we shall make sure that we upgrade Kamphemba village into a site and service area,â€ he said.
And the DEBS John Gooka asked the school authorities to ensure that the newly installed solar power project is properly looked after.
Mr Gooka also called on parents to ensure that children are taken to school because they no longer have to walk long distances to access education.
â€œGovernment has done its part by ensuring that schools are brought as closer to our children as possible. It is now your duty as parents to ensure that children are taken to school,â€ he said.
However, Kamphemba Primary School head girl Elizabeth Sinyiza appealed to Government to quickly work on the dilapidated four-kilometre gravel road from Chama Boma to the school to ease peopleâ€™s movement especially during the rainy season.
But the solar power project is not just benefitting the schools, the health centres have also seen the lights.
Chama district medical officer Anthony Kamazi knows the impact of this.
â€œIf there is no good light, our work is poor. We cannot litigate the bleeding blood vessel properly. Sometimes, especially at night, we cannot stitch properly because we canâ€™t see clearly,â€ Dr Kamazi said.
â€œI am, however, happy to mention that with the installation of solar power at selected health facilities, deaths which might have been as result of complications because of poor performance at night will now be reduced.â€
Each health centre being wired for solar power will possibly receive a refrigerator capable of storing vaccines and blood for transfusions. The solar power will also allow crucial tests like blood and stool samples to take place on demand.
â€œThis investment is huge although we have no regret because we are looking at benefits that will be accrued in the district. We are so proud of this project and we are not demanding for any contribution from the community. This project is being given to the community at a 100 percent subsidy courtesy of the Zambian government,â€ REA community mobilisation officer Vijue Moonga said.
Mr Moonga said it is anticipated that the SSMP will help the Ministry of General Education in the district to implement the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) policy the government is implementing countrywide.
He is also hopeful that the project will help with staff retention at both rural health centres and public schools.
â€œWe are tired of teachers running away from villages, accusing people of practising witchcraft, when in fact they are just running away from the dark because there is no power. We urge the community to participate in this project by way of providing security,â€ Mr Moonga said.
Chama gets benefits of sustainable solar project
ARTHUR MWANSA, Chama