CHARLES CHISALA, Samfya
CINDERELLA Mwape, a Grade Eight pupil at Kakote Primary School near Lubwe Catholic Mission in Samfya district, wants to become a nurse when she completes
her secondary education.
“I don’t like the way some nurses treat patients and those who escort them to the hospital. So I want to become a nurse so that I can show kind-ness to the patients and those caring for them,” the 16-year-old girl said in surprisingly flawless English.
But one hurdle is threatening Cinderella’s dream career. Her school is not fully electrified, which has been making it difficult for her to study and do her practical schoolwork.
“As you can see, Grade Nines are writing their mock exams right now, but only one classroom has electricity. It cannot accommodate all those who want to study at night,” the ambitious girl said.
Her worries will soon be a thing of the past.
The Rural Electrification Authority (REA) will have the rest of the classrooms and other structures, including staff houses, connected to power.
REA chief executive officer Geoffrey Musonda made the assurance when he paid head teacher Evans Nkonkosholo a courtesy call on Tuesday.
Mr Musonda was on a monitoring and fact-finding tour of power projects in Luapula Province.
The people of Kakote know the importance of the project.
Young Cinderella says the full electrification of the school will help her pursue the career of her heart and don the snow-white nurse’s uniform which she admires so much.
“They say education is the key to success. Once someone is educated they can buy their own clothes, buy whatever they want without begging. That is why we are happy that REA will put electricity in all the classrooms,” she said.
“It will be good because I will be able to study for a longer period and get better results.”
Cinderella said it would be easier for her and other pupils to do her practical assignments such as baking and computer studies.
Mr Nkonkosholo who has 564 pupils under his charge, could not also hide his happiness at the glad tidings from REA.
“We can’t wait to see the whole school, including our houses, electrified because it will make things easier for both pupils and us the teachers,” he said.
Teachers have been facing challenges in the marking of schoolwork and preparation of lessons and tests.
“Things will improve a lot once the whole school has power,” he said.
Mr Nkonkosholo said pupils had been walking all the way to Lubwe Skills Training Centre to do their computer practical lessons.
But Mr Musonda had more good news for the community.
He said the government, working with the World Bank and Zesco Limited, has started rolling out the electrification of traditional thatched houses in rural areas after the successful implementation of the pilot phase in Luangeni in Eastern Province, Chavuma in North-Western Province and Mwansabombwe in Luapula Province.
And Kakote will be among the first places to benefit under the roll-out.
“We hope to connect 30,000 rural households and even more in the next five years. We have made electricity affordable to the rural people by charging a nominal connection fee of K250 per household,” Mr Musonda said.
He said REA and its partners have discovered that most households in rural areas live in grass-roofed houses, and that they also deserve access to affordable electricity to lead decent lives.
“We have found that if we are selective we will not be able to meet our target of covering 51 percent of households by 2030,” Mr Musonda said.
He took time to tour villages around the school and chat with the residents in the company of REA technical staff.
The local community has received the ‘gift’ with joy.
Mumba Changani of Bombwe village said the Kakote community had been crying for electricity for a long time.
“Most of the people here work hard and can afford to pay K250. Now people will know that their houses will be electrified at a low cost if they build. Our children will be able to study at night. This is indeed good news,” Mr Changani
“We want development. We are grateful to the government for coming up with this initiative. We are just appealing to REA to fulfil its promise as soon as possible,” he said.
Mr Musonda assured him that REA was taking the job seriously.
Mrs Gladys Mulolo of the same village agrees with Mr Mulolo.
“We are reluctant to ask our children to buy us television sets because there is no electricity. We are very happy because this is what the Patriotic Front (PF) promised us during campaigns,” Mrs Mulolo said.
In the past, rural communities were sceptical because they did not believe that a small village house with dry grass for a roof could have electricity.
Mr Musonda and his team were happy with the high enthusiasm and eagerness the people of Kakote and surrounding villages exhibited towards the project.
They have waited for too long.
Such open beneficiary acceptance is important for the government’s poverty reduction initiatives such as the Rural Electrification Programme to de-liver the targets of the Vision 2030 and the recently unveiled Seventh National Development Plan.
The government needs this kind of support from citizens as they the targets of pro-poor development programmes.
The rural electrification drive is one of the government’s success stories and deserves support.
It is changing lives.