Zambia’s only school for firefighters in quandary

TRAINEES at the National Fire Service Training School in Kabwe.

OVER the years, the number of firefighters being trained at the Zambia National Fire Service Training School (ZNFSTS) has increased.
Based in Kabwe, ZNFSTS opened its doors in 1968 and was meant to cater for an intake of 30 trainees. Now the number of new entrants has risen to about 90 to 100 students.
ZNFSTS trains firemen and women who work in local authorities, mining companies and other private firms.
The school has, however, not received any major facelift despite being the only tertiary institution for firefighters in Zambia.
The school’s infrastructure is inadequate and it lacks essential tools for effective training of firefighters.
Since Kabwe has no fire brigade station, ZNFSTS also serves as the fire brigade for Kabwe Municipal Council (KMC).
Billy Sichamba, the deputy mayor of Kabwe, extols ZNFSTS as an important institution which has over the years played an important role in Zambia’s fire safety efforts.
“As a country, we have benefitted very much from this institution because firefighters are produced by this school,” Mr Sichamba said.
Briefing Mozambican national commander of Fire Services and Rescue Abdual Alimo Ibriamo Issufo, who recently visited Zambia, Mr Sichamba said Kabwe is privileged to host ZNFSTS.
Mr Sichamba said as the demand for firefighters is increasing, plans are on the drawing board to build a bigger national school.
KMC has provided a 2.5 hectares of land about three kilometres in Kafulamuse area, south-east of Central Province’s capital, for the construction of a new ZNFSTS.
The process of building a new and modern college, according to the institution’s chief fire officer Yona Mwale, has reached an advanced stage.
“Government wants to expand the centre,” Mr Mwale explains. “Land has been allocated for expansion of the school as the current school was built in the 1960s.”
Unlike the old ZNFSTS, which lacks space and is sandwiched by houses in the town centre area, the new school will be located in a spacious area to allow for practical training of students.
The new facility will also have a helipad, hazardous material zone, flood and gas distribution area, smoked chambers building and information and communications and technology section.
As a fully-fledged national fire service training school, the facility will be equipped with a special laboratory for arson investigations, a pool for water rescue operations training and four classrooms, each catering for 50 learners.
Other facilities will include a high-rise drill tower and turntable radar, and sports facilities for football, netball and volleyball, among others.
About three hundred trees will be planted within the premises of the school.
Mr Mwale says the decision by Government to build a new national firefighting school is a positive development in the history of ZNFSTS.
“We are just waiting for the release of funds by the Ministry of Finance,” Mr Mwale said.
“Our hope is that it (ZNFSTS) will also be a SADC (recognised) training school.”
The provision of a modern fire tender to ZNFSTS is also a positive development in the training of firefighters.
Transport has been a challenge for ZNFSTS. The only fire tender the school had for practical lessons, which was also being used by the local authority, has broken down.
Fortunately, ZNFSTS was given a fire tender by the Ministry of Local Government when Government bought 42 fire tenders.
The new fire tender is expected to enhance the training of firefighters at ZNFSTS who were previously subjected to theories in certain practical courses.
“For the last seven years, we did not have a water fire tender. In terms of training, it was theoretical and this affected our training,” Mr Mwale said.
ZNFSTS needs adequate equipment, such as fire tenders to provide practical lessons to firefighters before sending them out in the industry.
The new training school, Mr Mwale says, will provide more enrolment opportunities for students and enrich training programmes in firefighting and rescue operations.

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