MWILA NTAMBI, Kitwe
PEOPLE that lived in Northern Rhodesia before 1964, especially Africans, have a lot of stories to tell.
They tell stories about the hardships and injustices they suffered at the hands of the white minority that had colonised them. Some of the injustices have been captured in books, while others are just told as stories by those that were privileged to live in the colonial era.
One of the prominent stories that have been told about the struggle for independence is about the segregation that existed in terms of access to social amenities such as schools, hospitals, shops, housing and recreation, among other things, in that black and white people could not share.
Although independence was attained in 1964 and freedom guaranteed to all regardless of race, the racial segregation of the colonial years could still be retraced through school infrastructure. The infrastructure in schools that were predominantly white is different from that which is found in schools that were built for blacks. Although both sets of infrastructure have had their own share of deterioration over the years, it is easy to see the difference in terms of design and social amenities.
In Kitwe, for example, there are schools that were exclusively for the whites and those that were for black people. A comparison of the infrastructure in these two sets of schools tells it all.
Francis Chilufya, now the head teacher at Rokana Primary School in Kitwe, still recalls the difference between white-dominated and black-dominated schools. Having started his primary education before independence, he recalls that Mutende Primary School where he began his education, had no windows.
In contrast, schools such as Frederick Knapp (now Rokana Primary School) had beautiful infrastructure with spacious classrooms, amenities such as swimming pools, excellent pupil- to teacher ratio, and a school hall among other things.
“This school was strictly for the whites only. This is where the children of most white expatriates working in the mines used to come to. African children were not allowed,” he said.
Mr Chilufya recalls that even the location of the white-dominated schools was prohibitive because the schools were located in areas that were out of bounds for the black community.
He says Frederick Knapp was not the only primary school for the white community in Kitwe. There were other schools such as Prince Charles Primary School (now Matete Secondary School), Riverrain, Valley View and Kitwe Primary School, among others.
The pattern in the aforementioned schools was similar. They all had spacious classrooms, school halls, swimming pools, and sports facilities such as volleyball and tennis courts among others.
In contrast, black-dominated schools such as Kitwe Main, Wusakile, Mutende and Mindolo primary schools did not have those facilities. These schools had small structures, yet they accommodated a lot of children and had no sports facilities or assembly halls. Whereas white children had their assemblies in school halls where they were able to sit comfortably, black children had their gatherings outside.
Mr Chilufya also recalls how difficult it was for the black people to access secondary education in those days. He says black children had fewer opportunities to proceed to secondary school because of such challenges as long distance to school and lack of school facilities. Furthermore, many black children were dropping out of school after failing their examinations.
White children, on the other hand, found it easy to proceed to secondary schools such as Kitwe Boys and Kitwe Girls (now Helen Kaunda).
Secondary schools that were within easy reach of the indigenous people in Kitwe were Nakatuntulu Girls (Mindolo Secondary School), Chamboli and Mukuba.
In those days Nakatuntulu Secondary School was located in the bush and its surrounding areas known as Nakadoli and Kamunga in Chimwemwe township had thick shrubs too.
“Mindolo Secondary was in the bush and pupils from there could actually pick wild fruits on their way to school,” Mr Chilufya said.
Gertrude Nkonde, a teacher at Mukuba Secondary School says her school was also located in the bush and had no parameter fence.
It lacked sports amenities such as tennis courts or swimming pools that were available in white-dominated schools.
At Helen Kaunda Girls Secondary School, the deputy head teacher, Cosmas Mutalu, says the school was opened before independence in January 1957 and was known as Kitwe Girls Secondary School.
Mr Mutalu says before independence, the school had more white pupils than Zambian ones and the head teachers were British expatriates.
It had all the facilities in terms of sports and recreation such as swimming pool, basketball court, netball and tennis courts among other things.
Prior to independence, there was no boundary wall between Kitwe Girls and Kitwe Boys schools and this has continued to date. The swimming pool, though not functional, is located at the girls’ school while the washrooms are in the boys’ school.
Mr Mutalu says after independence, Kitwe Girls was renamed Helen Kaunda Secondary School in honour of President Kaunda’s mother.
The story is similar at Parklands Secondary School which was previously known as Kitwe Primary School.
Although there is not much information in terms of who headed the school before locals took over the administration functions, Joyce Sikalenje, the acting deputy head-primary recalls that the first head teacher was a Mr Whiteson.
The school also had all the facilities that were present in white-dominated schools such as swimming pool, netball and volleyball court, among others.
Despite being a primary school then, Kitwe Primary School had better infrastructure and facilities than black secondary schools such as Mindolo, Mukuba and Chamboli.
Fifty-three years after independence, the above narratives which are normally deposited in history annals, have to be told for the younger generation to appreciate the fruits of political freedom.
As Zambia celebrates her 53rd independence anniversary tomorrow, the story is told again not only as a way of paying tribute to the freedom fighters, but also to ensure the education sector performs better.
Now access to education is not a preserve of the privileged few, but a right for every Zambian.
Government has committed itself to providing universal access to education and great progress have been made at primary education. Schools are being built in rural areas and the people can demand equal access to education across all social strata because Zambia won political freedom on October 24, 1964.