KELVIN MBEWE, Chibombo
SEVENTEEN-YEAR-OLD Gilbert Milimo (not real name) is at the Development Aid from People to People (DAPP) childrenâ€™s town in Chibombo district. He found himself there after he was adopted by a white man.
The white man took him in after he lost his parents in 2010.
He can look back and gladly muse that he is one of the orphans in Zambia that did not end up on the street thanks to DAPP with the support of the Zambian government.
Gilbert now has an education, decent accommodation, three meals a day and a good night sleep every day.
On top of it all, he has been equipped with life skills in agriculture.
The project, which started in 1990 is located in Malambanyama area in Chibombo district, Central Province aims to support government efforts in removing children from the streets, rehabilitate and reintegrate them into the community or into a future job position.
Their teachers are provided with psychosocial support and child protection knowledge to help former street children and other vulnerable children through the rehabilitation process.
Besides providing the children with a formal education, DAPP the childrenâ€™s town has gone a step further to provide a programme called practical Theoretical Basic Education (PTG).
The three-year programme is meant to impart the children with life skills in agriculture and or cheffing skills (food producer and modern chef)
Gilbert is a beneficiary of this programme which involved 183 other pupils.
â€œI have learnt how to prepare land before planting. I have also learnt that there are different types of crops that grow in Zambia and the time they take. I will use the knowledge I have acquired from this programme to start my own garden and sell the produce to earn a living,â€ said a confident-looking Gilbert
He says he values this education and calls on children around the country do to the same.
â€œMy advice to my friends on the streets and those in well-to-do homes is that: letâ€™s take education seriously. As for me, I want to continue studying so that I can be a lecturer of agriculture,â€ he said.
Janet Mwanachingwala (not real name) 16, is another beneficiary of the PTG programme.
She says the programme has changed her life as she was previously a nobody who could not read and write but now she can prepare professional meals after training to cook.
Gilbert and Janet recently graduated with certificates in agriculture and modern chef respectively.
According to Imasiku Sitali the project co-ordinator of DAPP childrenâ€™s town, his organisation seeks to make the beneficiaries realise their full potential and look at humanity, personal values, skills and oneâ€™s ability to live and work with others.
It is also meant to bring about changes, new and better conditions in life.
â€œThe programme is organised in a way pupils can see and feel themselves working their way up to the next level every time they learn,â€ he said.
To make it more practical, Mr Sitali said the pupils went on survival trips which included knowing the environment, cleaning actions and gathering wild fruits, visiting Bushman caves, fishing and site visitations to the Lukanga Swamps, hot springs and the wetlands.
As part of their practical lessons, the food producer pupils had various activities to equip them for the task.
â€œThe food producer group managed to grow different vegetables, which they supplied to the school for consumption, successfully demonstrating how to control diseases, do crop diversification and control pests in the garden. They also learnt about soil profile, management and global warming,â€ he said.
Mr Sitali said the modern chef students underwent similar practical skills.
â€œThe modern chef group had practical lessons in cooking. Further research work was carried out on the factors that influence prices and shortages of food in the world. The modern chefs were attached to Keembe training institute, during which they covered many topics and practical lessons,â€ he said.
The programme did not end without certification.
Each student went home with a certificate as evidence of having undergone the course in either modern chef or food producer.
The graduation ceremony was graced by Central provincial education officer Jennifer Banda who called on every adult to take up the responsibility of educating young people as it is not the responsibility of Government alone.
She also commended DAPP for playing an active role in rehabilitating street kids.
The next time you buy clothes from DAPP, think about how long your money will go in uplifting the lives vulnerable children.
KELVIN MBEWE, Chibombo