DOREEN NAWA, Mumbwa
EDUCATION has consistently been recognised as the cornerstone of development for any country or region, and one of the highest returns when pursuing development.
But the outcome is influenced by a number of factors, with infrastructure being one of them.
School infrastructure including its design, quality and day to day management is significant in enabling the school system to deliver improved education outcomes. It broadly encompasses land and building, quality of facilities and the overall design.
The development of quality school infrastructure requires significant capital investment, which has increased the overall cost of construction of the school, leaving many rural schools in a deplorable state.
One such school is Mumbwa’s Moomba Primary School situated about 20 kilometres away from Mumbwa town.
The lack of infrastructure is certainly a crisis at Moomba Primary School.
This is so because over 450 pupils at the school have had to share a classroom block for the past 10 years.
The first and only classroom block was built in 2007, before then, pupils were learning in a grass thatched classroom.
The huge cost of construction had burdened the school operators at Moomba, who have limited options for financing available.
“The situation became unbearable and our children were refusing to go to school. As a traditional leader representative, I approach the government representative in Mumbwa town about 20 kilometres away for help last year and few months later, help came our way,” headman Mwanankanama Matthew Mambwe said.
Moomba Primary School has been struggling with poor facilities, unskilled teachers and high dropout rates for over a decade.
Mud and thatched classroom blocks are what characterise the infrastructure conditions of many school in Moomba area.
“Lack of qualified teachers is a problem in most schools in this area and Moomba is not an exception. This is because teaching has always been the last career option for most young people. And when teachers get posted to rural schools like Moomba, it’s a known fact they will either go on leave or apply for a transfer immediately,” Headman Mwanankanama says.
It has been said that quality and reliable infrastructure in the education sector is critical in maintaining the high literacy rate countrywide.
As evidenced from the many rural school infrastructure, the country’s educational infrastructure needed to be upgraded and modernised in line with global developments.
It is a fact that having schools in good conditions is decisive for pupils to achieve the expected academic results.
Educationists say the conditions of the schools directly impacts the performance of the students.
According to Moomba Primary School headteacher Vivious Simbweda, half of the young population in Moomba area meant to proceed to secondary education are being forced to drop out because of various reasons, chief among them being the poor school infrastructure, unavailability of funds and societal preference to educate the boy child.
“The number of especially girls reportedly dropping out from school after completion of their primary education has reached alarming levels. When you confront the families and pupils, the answers we get are that the dilapidated infrastructure is demotivating them. There is need for the government to develop mechanisms that would effectively curb this trend,” Mr Simbweda says.
Proprietor of Bon Voyage Contractors Harry Ngoma says what he found on the ground when he first visited the school to carry out feasibility study was a mud and thatched structures that were being used as a classroom.
“What was first here was a sorry site. I am glad that today, we are witnessing a milestone in the history of this school. A newly-constructed building is being handed over. I am positive that it will positively impact the school attendance. We built it in six months, we started on December 16, 2016 and by June 2017, the works were done,” Mr Ngoma says.
Funded by a South Korean church, Icheon 2nd Presbyterian Church through World Vision Zambia (WVZ), a classroom block has been constructed to cushion the infrastructure challenges at the school.
The classroom block and furnishing, the borehole and toilets all were constructed at a cost of K908, 708 (US$90,878).
Handing over the classroom block to government representative, WVZ national director Mark Kelly said quality education demands a lot and one way is by providing better infrastructure.
“Safe and clean water, improved sanitation are critical for every child to remain healthy and motivated to attend school regularly,” Mr Kelly said in a speech read for him by WVZ regional operations manager Kenny Sondoyi.
Mr Kelly said education is important in the life of every child because it is a well-known that it opens doors to many other opportunities that could enable anyone engage in successful job careers, farming, businesses and scientific ideas to transform their lives and their communities.
And receiving the infrastructure, Mumbwa District Council chairperson Gracious Hamatala said providing quality education starts with having better infrastructure that motivates teachers and pupils to enhance their commitment and performance.
“Education is the greatest tool needed to effectively steer development in our country,” Mr Hamatala said.
And Incheon 2nd Presbyterian Church Pastor Lee Kunyoung said his church is committed to seeing that the people of Moomba have a better education infrastructure.
Pastor Lee said his church has will soon start mobilising funds through donations to contribute to the building of teachers housing at Moomba Primary School.
Currently, Moomba has one staff house occupied by the deputy head teacher, the other five staff are accommodated in the nearby village while the headteacher resides in Mumbwa town.
Finding ways of support to upgrade the existing infrastructure in schools as well as building new ones is a dream come true for people in Moomba area.
“Though we have not succeeded in everything everywhere, our community has earned the admiration for this classroom block. If you see other schools here, they are a sorry site,” Jennifer Maimbo, a resident of Moomba area says.
For Ms Maimbo, the positive aspect of this success story, will be defended and protected to the hilt and sustained for generations to come.
“The quality infrastructure we have received so far should not be compromised but should be expanded by a culture of teachers so that our children can have safe and conducive for learning,” she said.