MUNIDE ZULU, Lusaka
ANN Zulu has had to grapple with hardships associated with teachers in rural areas: No good roads and poor health facilities, which were compounded by lack of electricity.
She had to prepare her lesson plans under candlelight, a common and acceptable practice among teachers in remote areas.
But the story is changing in Nalolo district in Western Province following the electrification of Nanjucha, one of the development hubs in the district.
Ms Zulu, a teacher at Lubosi Primary School in Nanjucha said electrification of her school will ease her workload.
â€œWhen I was posted to work here last year, I was very disappointed and discouraged to work in an area without electricity. It has been difficult to plan for work using a candle,â€ Ms Zulu said.
She said it was also difficult to keep abreast with current affairs because she could not watch television or listen to the radio unless she travelled to an area with electricity; a situation she said was detrimental to her as a teacher.
â€œLiving here has really been a challenge in all aspects. I almost resigned because I couldnâ€™t bear it. I couldnâ€™t study; it was difficult to prepare work for my pupils. Even keeping up appearances was a challenge because there are no salons in the area,â€ she said.
As for the school head teacher Mwembo Mwembo, he has been grappling with departure of teachers who have been deserting the school due to lack of power.
He said electrification of the school will help motivate teachers because they can now plan their work, drink cold water and watch television just like urban people.
And a grade seven pupil at the school, Elizabeth Kekelwa Sibenda said electrification of her school will help her and other pupils, especially those in examination classes to study well.
â€œIt has been hard studying using a candle light or phone torches. Electrification of this place and other surrounding communities will therefore enable us study at night and this will improve our academic performance,â€ she said.
The K8 million Nanjucha grid extension involved construction of 34.3kilometres of 11kv overhead line from the existing one at Muyo junction to Nanjucha Basic School.
The project will benefit schools such as Nanjucha, Likuma, Litoya, Sianda, Lubosi and Liangati as well as Nanjucha Health Centre.
Commissioning the project Deputy Minister of Mines, Energy and Water Development Charles Zulu said this will help boost economic activities especially in agriculture and trade industries.
â€œJobs will be created and we also expect to see positive change in social sectors such as education and health,â€ he said.
He also hopes that the community will enjoy increased interaction with the outside world through radio, television, the internet, and cellphones.
Mr Zulu noted that education levels will be increased and there will be retention of both nurses and teachers who have shunned the area due to lack of electricity.
He however bemoaned rural dwellersâ€™ low access to electricity which is estimated at a paltry five percent.
He paid tribute to partners who are assisting Government to attain its vision of electrifying all rural areas such as the European Union (EU), the World Bank, Japanese International Development Corporation (JICA), Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and the Royal Netherlands Embassy.
Nalolo member of Parliament Inonge Wina said connection of the area to the national grid will not only reduce witchcraft but bring enormous economic activities and uplift peopleâ€™s living standards.
Mrs Wina also said electrification of the area is an added advantage to people in the community as they will be able to open small and medium enterprises that will create wealth for them.
REA board chairperson Professor Jorry Mwenechanya said the rural electrification drive remains one of the priority requirements to achieving economic growth and reducing poverty in rural areas of Zambia.
Through the available technologies such as solar home systems, solar mini grids, mini hydro power stations and extension projects, Prof Mwenechanya said REA will continue to electrify rural areas so that more citizens can have access to electricity and better quality life.
Currently, Government targets to connect 51 per cent rural people by 2016 and it is carrying out feasibility studies under the Rural Electrification Master Plan.
So far REA has implemented a total number of 149 grid extension projects and 928 solar projects in rural communities countrywide.
The main beneficiaries are public institutions such as schools, rural health centres, local courts and other government departments. Others are chiefâ€™s palaces, business centres, farm blocks and private households.