ROBINSON KUNDA, Shiwangándu
FOR seven decades now, the children of Shiwangándu district in Muchinga Province have walked and cycled for hundreds of kilometres
in search of secondary education.
This is because the area has had no secondary schools resulting in many pupils dropping out of school at tender ages and being forced to enter into early marriages or other vices.
Shiwangándu was part of Chinsali district until 2012 when it was gazzeted as a district by late President Michael Sata.
Kenneth Kaunda and Chinsali Girls were the only secondary schools that were providing secondary education in the area despite its vastness.
However, the situation is about to change following government’s decision to upgrade the 72-year-old Chibesakunda Primary School into a secondary school.
The school was opened in 1945 by the Northern Rhodesia administration and was named after Chief Chibesakunda in recognition of the late traditional ruler’s good leadership skills but it has operated as a primary school for 70 years.
According to Austin Chibesakunda, who left the school in 1959, the colonial administration used the institution for two purposes; for learning and as one of the centres for punishing those (freedom fighters) that opposed their rule.
But over the years, the school has churned out a number of graduates who have gone on to hold influential and admirable positions in society.
Some of its products are former chief justice Lombe Chibesakunda, former Clerk of the National Assembly and former Zambia’s Ambassador to Japan Mwelwa Chibesakunda and prominent businessman Cassius Ramsey, the proprietor of CR Carriers, whose father still lives a few kilometres from the school.
Austin Chibesakunda, who is a lecturer at the University of Zambia, recalls how he and other pupils used to walk through the then lion infested thickets to access secondary education at Timba which was built by Sir Stewart Gore-Browne, also known as Chipembele, a pioneer white settler who supported majority rule in Northern Rhodesia.
He says after Zambia’s independence, pupils used to travel to Mpika, Isoka and Chinsali for their secondary education.
“Most of our friends dropped out of school after Standard Four because they couldn’t afford to travel to Timba. Thanks to our dad (late Chief Chibesakunda) he was so passionate about education and he made it a point that all of his children should be educated,” he says.
“He worked in the railway lines and he saw how people were being supervised. He laid a very strong foundation for us and today the Chibesakunda clan is one of the most educated in the country.
“This same school is our foundation stone.”
Austin is appealling to former Chibesakunda Primary School pupils and other well-wishers to contribute towards the upgrading of the school because it will benefit a lot of children.
The news of the upgrading of the school has been welcomed by parents in the area as it will ease some of the challenges that they face in accessing high school education.
Shiwangándu member of Parliament Stephen Kampyongo is equally excited and was recently in the area to donate desks to the school.
He says Chibesakunda is an historical school which was built before independence and it is good to see it become a secondary school.
“This is what we promised the people. The upgrading of Chibesakunda School is as a result of Shiwangándu becoming a stand-alone district. As area MP, my priorities in this new district are health, education and of course agriculture,” Mr Kampyongo says.
“But for me, education stands out among all these, because without it, we can’t have health or agriculture experts, that is why they say education is the best equaliser, I think now people are beginning to see the benefits of having a district.”
Mr Kampyongo, who is also Minister of Home Affairs, says it was a pity to see some pupils walking or cycling for over 70 kilometres to access secondary education at Kenneth Kaunda and Chinsali Girls secondary schools.
The minister says the upgrading of Chibesakunda School will also help decongest the two secondary schools in Chinsali.
“It’s a milestone in our education system, we are also planning to construct Matumbo Boarding School, but for now, we will strive to provide all the necessary facilities at Chibesakunda so that it can work effectively,” he says.
But there are few challenges still.
The committee that is spearheading the upgrading of the school faces a number of bottlenecks in transforming it into a fully-fledged secondary school.
The most daunting one is poor funding.
Project chairperson Robbester Bwalya said in an interview in Shiwangándu recently that close to K1 million is needed for the first phase of upgrading the school into a secondary.
“We need 10 classrooms which include a science laboratory, computer lab, a library, home economics and a practical subject workshop,” Mr Bwalya said.
The target is to have the grades nine and 10s by January next year.
The dormitories for both boys and girls also need to be built so that pupils from far places could also be catered for.
Shiwangándu district commissioner Evelyn Kangwa says the school will help keep the children away from unproductive vices such as beer drinking and early marriages.
Miss Kangwa is appealling for unity and hard work among the stakeholders if the project is to materialise.
She says the upgrading of the school is in line with Government’s plan for children to access quality education in the area.
And Stephen Bwalya, a parent of Kachenja village, says the upgrading of the school has come as a relief to both the parents and children.