By CHIMWEMWE MWALE
IMAGINE arriving in a place you little know and yet you are asked to establish social services and infrastructure such as schools and hospitals, among others!
Yes, it would be the beginning of some â€˜brain boxingâ€™ and search for divine intervention.
And this is perhaps the dilemma early missionaries including the Catholic Christian Brothers faced when they arrived in Zambia to commence their laborious mission.
The Congregation of Christian Brothers (officially, in Latin: Congregatio Fratrum Christianorum; members of the order use the post-nominal â€œCFCâ€) is a worldwide religious community within the Catholic Church, founded by Blessed Edmund Rice.
The Christian Brothers, as they are commonly known, chiefly work for the evangelisation and education of youths, but are involved in many ministries, especially with the underprivileged.
Zambia Region leader Alfred Banda says the Christian Brothers first opened their school in Waterford, Ireland, in 1802 before spreading to other parts of the world including Zambia.
Brother Banda said it all started after Brother Rice who was a tycoon sold his business and opened his first school for poor young children who in todayâ€™s Zambia can be likened to street children.
â€œBeing a practical man, he started a bakery so that the children could be fed and also a tailoring shop so that the children could be clothed. He invited other likeminded young men to join him.
â€œThey formed a Religious Congregation of Brothers within the Catholic Church. On September 5, 1820, Pope Pius VII approved the Congregation of Christian Brothers whose main work was the evangelisation of youths through faith based education,â€ Br Banda recalled.
Brother Hugh Oâ€™Neil is the Congregation leader of the Christian Brothers, and head of the Rome based Congregational Leadership Team.
In 1964, the Christian Brothers were asked to help the newly-established and Kenneth Kaunda-led Government to establish schools in Mazabuka, Southern Province, through Monze Catholic Diocese.
The late Bishop of Monze Diocese Reverend James Corboy heeded the request by Dr Kaunda to set up more schools and vocational training institutions for the youth in the then new nation.
This was the birth of the Government grant aided Catholic School, Saint Edmundâ€™s Secondary School, which admitted its first pupils on February 24, 1964 as a co-education institution dubbed Mazabuka College.
Its first head teacher was a Brother Cornelius Horan.
The now 50-year-old school however stopped being a co-education institution after a girlsâ€™ school was built across the stream bordering St Edmundâ€™s and this is what now stands as Mazabuka Secondary School.
St Edmundâ€™s derives its name from Irish founder of the Catholic Religious Orders of Christian Brothers and Presentation Sisters, Edmund Rice. He founded the two religious orders in 1820.
The school was established to supplement the work of Jesuit priests at Chikuni Mission School dubbed Canisius College which the Bishop of Monze also invited the Christian Brothers to run in 1968.
The legendary St Edmundâ€™s Secondary School has not â€˜struck goldâ€™ or attained golden jubilee for nothing.
It has a long list that can perhaps â€˜stretch kilometres!â€™ (depending on the font) of past pupils who are now part of the countryâ€™s developmental equation in various endeavours.
Both schools have an excellent record of General Certificate of Education (GCE) Ordinary Level (Grade 12) performance since the first graduates in 1970 rating as amongst the best five secondary schools in Zambia.
Some of the prominent school alumni include eminent Law Professor Michelo Hansungule, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock Wylbur Simuusa, Deputy Minister of Tourism and Arts Lawrence Evans and prominent lawyer and former minister Vincent Malambo.
Others are Zambia Tourism Board managing director Felix Chaila, Anti-Corruption Commission director general Rosewyn Wandi and Deputy Minister of Gender and Child Development Esther Banda.
Other notables include Stanbic Bank Zambia chairperson Mary Ncube and Zanaco general manager for Lusaka corporate business centre Kangwa Mutimushi, to mention a few.
Brother Banda points out that St Edmundâ€™s has been a popular secondary school which has catered for multitudes of students since its inception.
â€œThe good reputation of the school as a result of excellent pass rates and high standards of learning made it a school of choice by many people in the Zambian society,â€ he said.
Brother Banda said the learning institution initially started as a boarding school but was later transformed into a day school.
â€œAs a way of returning to the initial vision of providing education to the youth of Mazabuka, the Christian Brothers in 1984, with the Government of the day providing an opening, decided to do away with the boarding part of the school.
â€œThis opened the gates of St Edmundâ€™s the second time to the youth of Mazabuka. With part of the old dormitories converted into classrooms, the enrolment of the school increased,â€ Br Banda reminisced.
Br Banda said the first lay (non-Christian Brother) Zambian deputy head teacher and later promoted as head teacher, Clever Muma, was appointed soon after the school was converted to a day one in 1984.
Since then, the school has since been headed by Zambian non-Christian Brothers, and managed by the Christian Brothers through the board of management and the Parents and Teachers Association (PTA).
The 50-year-old school, however, has challenges as most of its infrastructure requires urgent refurbishment and some wood work has been â€˜feasted uponâ€™ by termites over the years.
Some of the renovation works around the school have been carried out and most of it was sponsored by Misean Cara, a branch of Irish Aid, the Edmund Rice Development Office and the PTA.
â€œThe chemistry laboratory has been worked on by the PTA while the design and technology workshop and the demonstration hall have been funded by Misean Cara and Edmund Rice Development, Ireland.
â€œThe school is inviting local businesses to help continue sponsoring renovations of the Physics, Biology and Agriculture Science laboratories. We urge local companies to emulate MultiChoice Zambia which has painted the school,â€ Brother Banda prodded.
Apart from St Edmundâ€™s Secondary School, the Christian Brothers have also established schools all over the world.
In Zambia, other secondary schools include Livingstoneâ€™s St Raphaelâ€™s in Southern Province, St Johnâ€™s in Mongu and St Columbus in Lukulu in Western Province.
The skills training centres include St Pauls in Mazabuka (Southern Province), Murundu in Mufulira (Copperbelt) and Chifwani in Kasama (Northern Province).
Others are Edmund Rice Youth Centre in Kabwe and Changa Changa Primary School in Mazabuka.
And as Zambia also celebrates her 50 years of independence, the Christian Brothers, St Edmundâ€™s Secondary School and its alumnus do not want to be left out as they intend to do it in style this Friday (September 12) under the theme â€˜Celebrating 50 years of empowering youths through education.â€™
By CHIMWEMWE MWALE