NDANGWA MWITTAH, Sinazongwe
EUSTACE Hamatowe is a student at Chalimbana University in Chongwe where he is pursuing a degree in teaching.
Today, he is teaching – on teaching practice at Chamukwapulo Community School, a school situated in the heart and within Sinazongwe’s Collum Coal mine fields.
This is one school where the local community is doing a lot to create a conducive learning environment for their children.
With an active Parent Teacher Association (PTA), that is building a new classroom block at the primary school, Government was inspired by the community’s enthusiasm, hence sending teachers to Chamukwapulo Community School.
However, inadequate classroom space and staff houses are the major challenges faced by the school.
With a total number of 382 pupils, Chamukwapulo Community School which goes up to grade seven has only four classrooms on its two separate blocks. One block though is still under construction.
The pupils at the school are eager to learn despite the challenges. To attend class, some share one class, while others learn under a tree.
It’s in the class that learns under a tree that Eustace, who takes the Grade 4 class, was found teaching Mathematics.
“It has been like this and the children are used. But there is nothing we can do because we still have to teach them anyway,” he says.
Indeed, the community school is the only option for the six villages that surround it.
Trywell Siamalabwa is the PTA chairperson for the school and says despite the numerous challenges the school was grappling with, it will endeavour to meet the needs of the children in the nearby communities.
He has thrown the challenge to the mine, civic leaders and also Government for more classroom blocks and staff houses.
“We started in 2002 as a community and constructed this classroom block and one teacher’s house. We are grateful to Government that it has sent us teachers but they are suffering because they come from far places to come and teach here,” he says.
The school has five teachers and only one staff house for the head teacher.
“These other teachers, live within the town area and it’s not near. We would appreciate if a block of flats is built here for teachers and also another classroom block to supplement the existing one and this one that’s still under construction,” Mr Siamalabwa says.
He says there has been little support from the mine.
The school deputy head teacher Christopher Kabunda says community participation has helped to get the school to where it is today.
“For instance, in one classroom, you would have two classes learning there at the same time so that we cater for all the other grades. It’s not easy, but with continued participation, we are trying to put this other classroom which we hope will ease the pressure,” he says.
On the other hand, Nkandabbwe ward councillor, Charles Ntiiti in whose ward the school is, feels the mine needs to supplement community efforts to keep the school running.
“To be honest, we have tried to engage the mine on numerous occasions to at least come and help both the community and Government, but there has been very little progress to say the least,” he says.
He adds: “we should value children and education. If we don’t give these children better infrastructure, even what we are doing here will be an exercise in futility. These mining companies should take up such things through their corporate social responsibilities.”
But Collum Coal Mine chief executive director Charles Dindiwe said the mine is undergoing a restructuring programme, but it has been helping the surrounding communities when it can.
“For a long time, we have been operating under care and maintenance. We just got back the mine in 2015 and those are some of the things that we are looking at,” he said.
He said that even at a time when the mine had no Corporate Social Responsibility programmes, it was supporting community programmes.
“But after 2015, we had to start from somewhere and so far we have made donations to schools such as Nkandabbwe School to go towards the construction of a girls dormitory,” he said.