CHAMBO NG’UNI, Kabwe
IT IS said that education is a great equaliser that does not choose the background of its partakers but simply drives them to the destination they desire for themselves.It brings together children of both the rich and poor as long as their results determine that both should share the same classroom or lecture theatre once they have crossed the initial hurdles of education.
It is with this in mind that Chief Mailo and his people in Serenje District cannot wait for the opening of the chiefdom’s first-ever secondary school.
Chief Mailo will be the happiest traditional leader once he casts his sight on a new secondary school, with pupils walking in and out of Mailo Boarding Secondary School.
What a spectacle that would be!
Chief Mailo’s fear, however, is that, as his sight is deteriorating, he may not live to see the reality of pupils learning at Mailo Boarding High School.
“You see, my sight is getting bad and I’m afraid I may not see this school open as it has taken a long time to be completed,” Chief Mailo once told Central province permanent Secretary Chanda Kabwe when he paid him a courtesy call at his palace.
The traditional leader speaks with passion about the importance of education and wants every boy and girl not to end their education at primary school level but go all the way to grade 12.
He notes that without his people getting educated, poverty and other social ills will remain a challenge to socio-economic development.
When opened, Mailo Boarding Secondary School will have classes running from grade eight to twelve.
Because of the absence of a secondary in Chief Mailo’s chiefdom, parents have been sending their children to Ibolelo Secondary School, Serenje Boma School and Serenje Technical School, which is a distance of about 120 kilometres.
Mailo ward councillor Patrick Munshya says the absence of a secondary school in the chiefdom is negatively affecting access to secondary school education, especially for girls.
Mr Munshya says the fact that learners have to access secondary school education about 120km away has over the years proved to be a challenge for parents and children in Mailo.
“The pupils end up renting small houses in Zambia Compound and we are having issues like pregnancies, early marriages and beer drinking,” he says.
“Away from their parents, there’s no parental guidance and the children can get involved in bad activities.”
The councillor says Chief Mailo and his people are eagerly awaiting the completion of Mailo Boarding Secondary School and its subsequent opening.
Mr Munshya says Savenda Management Services, the contractor building the school, have completed construction of the classrooms, teachers’ houses and the hostels to roofing level.
“This will be the first secondary school in Mailo since independence in 1964 and we are happy about this,” he says.
“Therefore, the opening of the school will be a plus for us here in Mailo because in future we are going to have a lot of our children completing secondary school education.”
Mailo Boarding High School falls within Muchinga Constituency whose member of Parliament is Howard Kunda.
Mr Kunda’s concern is not only about Mailo Boarding Secondary School but also about Chibale and Kanona secondary schools which, similarly, are in his constituency.
“These three high schools were started by the MMD [Movement for Multiparty Democracy] Government. Now we expect government to come through and complete these schools as soon as possible,” says the lawmaker.
Mr Kunda says construction of Mailo, Kanona and Chibale secondary schools has reached an advanced stage, and efforts should be made to complete the remaining works.
“Mailo is almost finished. We can even partially open this school but we want a situation where everything is in place so that the pupils are able to access quality education,” adds the member of Parliament.
Mailo Boarding Secondary School, which will also cater for day scholars, has four classroom blocks, a library resource centre, home economics, eight dormitories (four for girls and four for boys), an administration block, a school hall, and laboratories.
Savenda Management Services has also built medium and low-cost houses for teachers.
Central Province education officer Jennipher Banda rates the stage of construction at almost complete.
“Everything has been done. Its only minor works that have remained,” she says, adding that the school has already been connected to the national electricity grid. “Our intention is to see the school fully completed so that we open it because if it remains like that, it will be vandalized.”
Central Province permanent secretary Chanda Kabwe says the government has made strides in the construction of the school.
Mr Kabwe says the Mailo Boarding Secondary School project is one of the government’s priority projects in the education sector in Serenje District.
“The infrastructure is over 90 percent in terms of completion, and we want this school opened. We are aware of the concerns of His Royal Highness Chief Mailo,” Mr Kabwe says.
The permanent secretary attributes the delay in completing the secondary school to erratic funding for the project.
He envisions that when the school is opened, access to secondary school education in Mailo will improve.
“This is the first secondary school in Mailo’s area and we want this school to be opened so that people in Mailo can access education,” Mr Kabwe adds.
Savenda Management Services project manager Anesu Gumbie says the company plans to hand over the learning area and teachers’ houses between mid-October and early November as the works remaining are finishes, painting and decorating and outstanding external works.
“All buildings are roofed and awaiting the finishing works, except the hall and kitchen. We’re executing the finishing works in a phased approach. In the immediate – priority phase, we shall complete and partially hand over the learning area and houses so that the school can be operational,” said Mr Gumbie.
After that, works will continue on the dining hall, hostels and outstanding external works concurrently.
About the water situation at the school, he says an initial borehole had been sunk and the yield and quality tested.
“The yield is very good. As per the scope of works, the borehole will supply overhead tanks and the water reticulated to the learning area and houses in the immediate phase. Waste water management measures will be put in place as intervention in the immediate phase, as works will continue to the sewer reticulation and the treatment works,” Mr Gumbiesaid.
He thanked the government for the cordial and supportive relationship it has had with Savenda Management Services, and for including the Mailo and Kanona projects on the priority list as completion of these schools will go a long way in benefiting the communities.
Mr Gumbie said one of the benefits of the project to the locals in Mailo has been skills transfer.
“We’ve added some skills to the community. We’ve trained carpenters, builders and some machine operators. Even the standard of their workmanship has improved. We’re proud to have played this role to the community in Mailo chiefdom,” he says.
“Our relationship with the government and the communities we work in has been very good. With the continued support and the prioritizing of the schools, we shall speed up the works so that we can handover as planned…Kanona Day Secondary School has partially opened to accommodate some learners and administrative staff as we speak.”
Perhaps Chief Mailo should not be overly worried.
CHAMBO NG’UNI, Kabwe