DOREEN NAWA, Mumbwa
IT IS a famous school, and one of the first schools built after Zambiaâ€™s independence, as Government embarked on improving the education sector.
Mumbwa Secondary School has produced several people that have added value to the development of the country in various aspects of human and economic development.
Among them are former Bank of Zambia governor Caleb Fundanga, Dr Swebby Macha one of Zambiaâ€™s finest gynaecologists and obstetricians, Zambia Air Force colonel Elijah Kundwe, former Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) President Leonard Hikaumba and countless others holding various positions of influence in the country.
But today, 50 years down the line, the school infrastructure that hosted the men of valour and women of influence is in a deplorable state.
Dormitories have broken roofs â€“ if you wish to call them that – and window panes. Thin pieces of rugs and strewn bunker beds, some on mattresses. The walls of the dormitories have not seen a fresh coat of paint a long time as many evidenced from the state in which they are.
The water reticulation at the school is nothing to talk about and ablution blocks are nothing but a health hazard. Pupils are forced to fetch water outside the dormitories on a daily basis.
â€œThere are times when water supply is pathetic and we have no choice but to get water from houses around the school,â€ said a grade 12 pupil, who emphasised the importance of clean water.
â€œThere are limited sources of water to cater for the entire school population. The infrastructure to pump water from outside into the dormitories is dilapidated,â€ he said, clutching a bottle of water in his hands.
Another student said most buildings have leakages during the rainy season and keeping up in one place becomes a challenge.
She said the leakages have caused damage to infrastructure and cause school authorities a lot of money to repair.
At the event to celebrate 50 years, Mumbwa District Commissioner Felix Ndopu challenged former pupils to build various infrastructure within the school.
â€œMumbwa Secondary is like an abandoned mother whose many children are living comfortably and forgotten their original homestead. I appeal to former pupils to look back and always remember where you came from and support the school. Government alone cannot do everything,â€ Mr Ndopu said.
The cry from the current head teacher at the school, Mr Wilfred Hamakumba was also centred on the deplorable state of the school infrastructure.
â€œThe school looks abandoned but the situation is not an impossibility, it is not insurmountable and with the concerted effort from former pupils and the current administration, we can do a lot and the school can come back to its original status and become a centre of attraction to many,â€ Mr Hamakumba said.
The school infrastructure has seen better days and almost everything is falling apart. The staff room is but just a common hall that inspires nothing.
But the situation is redeemable. Dr Macha, who is also Ex-Mumbwa Secondary School Association chairperson says, â€œWe cannot allow this school to go beyond the current status. We need to do something by contributing something towards the renovation of the infrastructure and also lobbying from various partners, including government, for support in lifting the standards of this school to where it was years backâ€.
Renovating schools is just as important as building new ones as it addresses the challenge of poor school infrastructure.
â€œOld schools must be renovated and revitalised. We have witnessed time and time again that renovation not only improves the space for existing children to excel but also creates new classroom places by attracting the interest of families wanting to send their children to a safe, clean and modern school,â€ Dr Macha said.
Asked about his fond memories about the school, Dr Macha said he remembers the school as a small boy who was left in the care of strangers who later became his mentors.
â€œI felt abandoned for the first week and before I realised it, I was so comfortable in a strange place and it later became my second home for five years,â€ he said.
School is the second home and rightly so. Home away from home, school is the place where children spend their maximum time away from home.
When parents or guardians send their children to school, they not only expect a firm hand of a responsible adult to guide them, but also a conducive and secure environment.
And school infrastructure certainly plays a hand in creating that kind of an environment.
Imagine sending a child to a school where the building looks rundown and is left unrestored.
But with concerted effort from former pupils, government and its co-operating partners, it is possible for the school to redeem itself and regain its past and lost glory.
The school was opened in 1966 as a boysâ€™ school and two years later, girls were introduced there and it became a co-education institution.
Since its inception, the school has been presided over by 16 head teachers and of these, only one was female.
The school has had 12 deputy head teachers.
Currently, the school has 76 teachers (53 males and 23 females) with 1,425 pupils in the morning session.
In the afternoon session, the school has 682 pupils, bringing the grand total of pupils at the school to 1,894.
Despite having produced thousands of students, the lack of high-quality infrastructure now at the school can shape current student outcomes. Seemingly minor issues like poor water reticulation can lower achievement too. It is common knowledge that infrastructure profoundly influences learning.
After speeches, a dance to â€˜Kwa Monoâ€™ tune by the evergreen Amayenge Ensemble whose founder Chris Chali also hailed from Mumbwa, it was time for debate between current and former pupils.
The motion was about the use of a familiar language as a mode of communication in schools. Although there was no verdict, it was clear some former pupils had lost their debating skills.
Perhaps the only skill the former pupils are left with, apart from their areas of expertise, is to build the school which is almost in ruins.
DOREEN NAWA, Mumbwa