CHRISTINE CHISHA, Chililabombwe
IT WAS a big day for the residents of Kawama township in Chililabombwe as they witnessed the lighting up of Kawama Basic School.
The residents, mostly elders, danced and ululated while the children paced up and down during the commissioning of the Chimfushi Rural Electrification project.
“There will be great benefits, with our children being able to read at night, do computer practicals as well as Home Economics practicals because we have finally been connected to power,” said Kawama Basic School head teacher Pius Nshindano.
For Mr Nshindano, his biggest worry was how to implement the new education curriculum which involves teaching Information Communication Technology (ICT).
“The computers started gathering dust because the school, which was built in 1976, was not connected to the national power grid”.
While Mr Nshindano was celebrating that his pupils will be able to study at night and do practical subjects, a Kawama resident, Thomas Chiteta, was excited that his dream of owning a barber shop and his wife running a salon materalise.
“There will be so many benefits of being connected to the national grid. We will own our shops, welding machines, our families will be able to progress and start businesses, no more walking eight kilometres to Chililabombwe town to have our hair shaved,” Mr Chiteta said.
For the Rural Electrification Authority (REA), the completion of the project is an addition to the many joys it has experienced at the many other projects Government has commissioned throughout the country.
REA chief executive officer Geoffrey Musonda believes electricity is one of the social services likely to change the living standards of rural communities.
“We have a huge mandate of electrifying more than 1,217 rural growth centres spread across the country by 2030,” he said.
So far, the authority has implemented over 160 grid extension projects throughout the country. REA has also implemented one solar mini-grid project and installed over 8,000 stand-alone solar home systems in different parts of the country.
Mr Musonda said the Chimfushi project involved the construction of a total of 44 kilo watts of 11KV transformers in different places.
The aim of the infrastructure in Chililabombwe was to supply electricity to seven schools, two clinics, a local court and Kawama township.
REA has since handed over the project to Zesco for operation and maintenance and Mr Musonda added, “I want to urge everyone who wants to be connected to the power line to get in touch with Zesco.”
While the residents are excited about lighting their township, Government, through the Minister of Energy, David Mabumba, said the electrification of rural areas is a way of contributing to employment creation in the country.
President Edgar Lungu has said that the Patriotic Front (PF) government will in the next five years, through the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), target to create one million jobs.
Mr Mabumba said by electrifying the rural areas, more jobs are expected to be created when the local people venture into small businesses.
Mr Mabumba said Government has realised that to create the jobs promised by President Lungu by 2021, more areas need to be electrified so that citizens can go into businesses and help in creating jobs. He said the focus on increasing productivity will be more in rural areas.
He said the commissioning of the K6.5 million Chimfushi grid extension in Chililabombwe is also part of the fulfilment of the (PF) 2016 campaign promise.
“We are here to show the works of the PF just a few months of being re-elected. Our commitment as Government is to increase rural electrification from the current 4.4 percent to 51 percent by year 2030,” Mr Mabumba said.
Mr Mabumba urged the people of Chililabombwe to safeguard the newly installed transformers and other power facilities.
The minister said Government is also committed to increasing electricity generation. Zambia has 2,411 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity, virtually all of which is hydro. Currently, 25 percent of the urban population and four per cent of the rural population have access to power.
Chililabombwe member of Parliament Richard Musukwa said PF is a party that is committed to fulfilling campaign promises and uplifting the living standards of the vulnerable people.
Mr Musukwa said the dream of the PF is to see rural areas electrified so that health workers deliver quality health service even during the night.
He also said the pupils will also be able to receive quality education in both practical and theoretical subjects.
Undoubtedly, Government through the Rural Electrification Authority has been making noticeable strides aimed at providing electricity generating infrastructure in rural areas in order to contribute to the improvement of the quality of life.
It is the hope of REA and Government to have as many people as possible in Chililabombwe connected to the national power line so that the people of Kawama can enjoy a better life.