Plight of Masaiti’s Lupiya School

AT the edge of Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo in Masaiti lies a little school called Lupiya. Built in 1940, by colonialists for natives, the school serves 18 villages and less than a quarter of its pupils from neighbouring Congo.

From that year, the school, which is chief Chiwala’s chiefdom had five classroom blocks, no power and proper water and sanitation. The infrastructure was not sufficient to cater for the high number of pupils who now stand at 700 of which 100 of them are from Congo.

Due to the limited classroom blocks, classes were combined to accommodate as many children as possible. The numbers of learning hours were to be reduced to three from the normal five. One class has over 100 pupils which it difficult for teachers and teachers to concentrate.

The preschool section has over 100 children who learn from a makeshift thatched classroom. During the rainy season, the there is no learning in the thatched hut. Teachers have no materials or chalk board to write from in the thatched hut.

In short, the set up at the pre-school section is all Stone Age. “It had for children to concentrate. They do not learn whenever it rains because the hut is gets flooded which is not health for children,” Miriam Mutale a pre-school teacher.

Water and sanitation are other nightmares for the dilapidated school which is so significant the communities it serves. There are no flushable toilets and water for drinking is drawn for a well. Every day, pupils have to draw water from the well for use. The place is just over 22km from Ndola. As matter fact, when you are there, the city of Ndola could be seen.

In the night, the city of Ndola shines bright from that perspective. While Ndola shines bright when the sun sets, this part of Copperbelt where the school is located, remains in the dark. All this has been happening for 73 years in a place that is not far away from Ndola.

However, the community has made resolutions to do something about the school. All heads of 18 villages have moblilised people to build extra more classrooms from the four existing ones. School headteacher Obed Silavwe said so far several bricks have been done by the community who fear for their children’s future.

Most of the parents are peasant farmers who grow enough just to feed their families. Some of them are charcoal burners, who do not want their children to end up like them. “Our children are suffering. There is no enough space for them to learn,” says PTA chairperson Morgan Alimasi.

The school management and community efforts have not gone without recognition. Some companies like Chilanga Cement in Ndola, Ndola Lime, and Nelkant have offered materials like cement, tonnes and roofing sheets.

The community looked for brick layers who they have been paying to mould bricks. Mr Silavwe, who only came to the school a couple of years ago, said he was also grateful to Lafarge Cement who contributed 200 bags of cement and Ndola Lime who contributed stones towards the project.

The walls for the eight classrooms were done and that what was required now was more companies to help with donating a bole hole and connecting electricity. He said the existing five classrooms were not able to accommodate the more than 700 pupils at the school which runs from pre-school to Grade 10.

The number of learning hours has been reduced and the classes in some instances have been combined to create time and space for all pupils to learn.

The headteacher, together his 20 member of staff Mr Silavwe, has been impressed that the community had built the eight classrooms for themselves without any kind of funding and appealed to well-wishers to come on board and help the pupils learn in a better environment.

Eighteen villages that send their children to the school agreed to mould bricks and pay local bricklayers to build the eight classrooms last May.

He was hopeful that the school would have 55 classrooms by the end of next year.

Chief of the Lamba people in Masaiti, who was championing education in his chiefdom is impressed with the level of commitment from the community.

“I have been against early marriages. The more we have girls educated the better,” he said.

The chief called on other companies to look into the plight of Lupiya School, which he said was significant to the community.

He said most of the infrastructure in Masaiti was poor because colonialists never wanted natives to be educated.

“This is the area where copper is produced. How come Copperbelt rural was not developed?” he asked

True, in order to recruit European workers to the Copperbelt, the copper companies promised recruits good housing, state-of-the-art health care, top-notch schools for their children, and excellent recreational facilities.

To meet this last commitment, the mining companies spent a great deal of money on developing sports clubs and facilities that equalled those available in South Africa and Europe.

These wonderful facilities, however, were available only to European employees and their families.

However, a more permanent workforce required an equally dramatic change in the amenities offered to workers by the companies.

In place of dormitory style housing for single men, housing had to be provided for the families who accompanied their more permanently employed husbands and fathers.

Schools had to be provided for the children of miners, clinics and hospitals were built for the growing African urban population.

By 1950, the Copperbelt cities of Kitwe and Ndola, which were mere towns 20 years before, were among the largest and most modern cities in the region.

The rural parts of these towns, like Masaiti not developed. This explains Lupiya School’s predicament.

A parent Delisa Katolo is concerned with the level of distance pupils, especially girls have to cover to reach the school.

“I am happy that girls’ dormitory is in plans, this will help protect girls because they have been very vulnerable,” she said.

Due to difficult housing conditions at the school, some teachers have resorted to renting servant quarters at Chiwala Secondary School which lie some seven kilometres away.

“At least where we are, there is electricity and water. We were often cut off from current affairs, but now we have a television set to watch news and a fridge to store fresh things,” said Miriam Njovu, share a quarter with a colleague.

Ultimately, Lupiya School needs help.

The community has already shown effort and commitment. They do not need handouts but a hand-up to create better future for their children.

“I want to be a teacher when I finish school. I want to impart knowledge in people,” says 13-year-old Victoria Katepe a Grade Four pupil.

It is possible to make the dream for Victoria come true. This can only happen if a conducive environment is created for her to learn and reach for the stars.

Source : The Times of Zambia

Leave a Reply