CHARLES CHISALA, Lusaka
SIXTEEN-YEAR-OLD Evelyn George knows exactly what she wants to become.
“I want to be a nurse so that I can give people injections and get a salary to support myself and my family,” she said confidently.
Evelyn is doing Grade 5 at Nsamba Primary School in Chief Nsamba’s area in Lunga district, Luapula Province.
She has every right to be ambitious. She will not have to travel far when she passes to Grade 8 because the secondary school is just metres away from the primary institution, unlike in the past when it was a mere wish.
The boarding secondary school was built through the joint efforts of the Ministry of General Education and the local people led by their chief.
Although the school has brought relief to the Unga people, there are a number of challenges that require Government’s attention.
Chief Nsamba has raised a white flag for help on behalf of his subjects.
“In 2010, the government gave us K480,000 for the construction of a secondary school. We were grateful because with our own secondary school, our children would be able to access secondary education within our area,” he said.
In the past, children used to go to Samfya, Chifunabuli, Mansa and beyond after qualifying to Grade 8.
A contractor was engaged in 2011 to work with the local community to build the school, which has been completed and is now operational with two separate dormitories for boys and girls.
Chief Nsamba said there is, however, no accommodation for the school’s 21 teachers, who have been forced to squat at the primary school.
Their headteacher is living in a small shop in a nearby village.
“The teachers are just squatting at Nsamba Primary School. And when you look at Nsamba Primary School, it also has some teachers who require the same accommodation,” he said.
The school does not have a laboratory, and there are fears that the Examinations Council of Zambia (ECZ) may withdraw its status as an examination centre.
“The ministry [of General Education] promised to build houses for the teachers, but nothing is happening. I am appealing to the ministry to come to the aid of our people, to build houses and a lab.
“All the children writing exams in Lunga district come here because it is the only examination centre. We fear that we will lose the examination centre status because we do not have laboratories,” Chief Nsamba said.
The district council had promised to build a block of three classrooms that would be equipped as labs, but it has not yet fulfilled that promise.
Chief Nsamba fears that if the government does not help to build houses for the 21 teachers and a laboratory, it will put children in Lunga district at a disadvantage.
“If our children cannot access quality secondary education within their district, then we cannot expect to see development. Education is the catalyst for development,” he said.
Nsamba Clinic was the first healthcare facility given to the chiefdom in 1936 by a former Member of Parliament in the colonial government, Cole Brown, who settled in Shiwang’andu.
It was the first dispensary to service all the four chiefdoms in Lunga district.
However, it has never received any refurbishment or expansion.
“The other clinics came after independence in the Kasoma Lunga, Kalima Nkonde and Bwalya Mponda chiefdoms,” Chief Nsamba said. “The clinic requires an upgrade because the population has grown.”
Former Luapula MP in the MMD Government Peter Machungwa helped to establish the fourth clinic.
Out of the nine health posts allocated to the district as part of the 650 the government is building countrywide, none has been built.
Midwife Judith Ngosa says members of staff are working in difficult conditions but are highly dedicated to their calling.
“We are operating in darkness. We are delivering babies using torches from phones because there is no solar power. We are also using makeshift latrines because there are no VIP toilets, but we are doing our best to serve the people,” Ms Ngosa said.
She is, however, happy that villagers on Nsamba, Mutwamina, Kabulu, Mandwe, Kashoka, Matongo and Kabaaba islands have been making efforts to deliver at the clinic despite the long distances.
This is because Chief Nsamba has taken the lead in encouraging his subjects to deliver at the clinic to prevent maternal and child deaths.
Ms Ngosa reports, “In the last three years, we have not lost life of a mother or baby as a result of pregnancy-related complications. It is by the grace of God when you look at the distances the women have to travel by water to reach the clinic from the islands.”
She appealed to the Ministry of Health to increase the fuel allocation for Nsamba Clinic’s motor boat so that it can serve as an ambulance.
This will enable the staff to respond to emergencies reported through mobile phone.
Government has erected telecommunication towers through the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA), but the only network available is MTN, whose signal is so weak that making or receiving a call requires a lot of patience.
Ms Ngosa says she is encouraged that expectant mothers from the islands scattered across the chiefdom, which sits on the vast Bangweulu Swamps, are able to call the clinic to inform staff that they are on the way when they are due.
One of the rooms has been turned into a female ward so that mothers can wait for delivery at the clinic when the time is near instead of coming at the last minute.
“If the ministry is able to provide enough fuel for ambulances, for the motor vehicles, on the mainland in Samfya, Chifunabuli and Mansa it should also provide fuel for our boat.
“When we receive a distress call, we go there instead of those people transporting an expectant mother in a boat or canoe. Currently, the only fuel we are given is for conducting mobile under-five clinics,” Ms Ngosa said.
Mandwe Island is about 43 kilometres away while Kashoka and Kabaaba are each 25 kilometres from Nsamba clinic.
CHARLES CHISALA, Lusaka