A long and difficult day travelling down to Shoreham in the rain was broken up by a bit of good news from Steve, the founder of LearnAsOne who I accompanied to Zambia back in May. Thanks to some fantastic work involving cake sales, sponsored walks and skydiving, amongst other stuff, he’s now just £130 £35 short of the hit the first major milestone in the fundraising for Simakakata Community School. Hopefully, before the week is out, he’ll have enough LearnAsOne now has enough cash to fund the first classroom of the new school complex. This is incredibly good news.
I’ve written at length about how important this school is, but here’s the recap: all the village leaders I met in Zambia said that given a limited amount of funds, they’d choose to build a school over anything else, including a health centre. With a good school, modern school building and teachers’ houses, they can attract quality staff who will stay and give the community children the very best chance they’ll get at escaping poverty in their adult lives. The ability to simply read and write affects their work opportunities, obviously, but even for those who stay in the rural area being able to understand the instructions on a bag of fertiliser can increase family income three or four fold.
These people are poor, some of the kids – like Irene above – walk 14km a day barefoot to get to school. Their teachers are the most insipiring people I’ve ever met – most of them work for free and two of them, Beatrice and Loveness, live in a small hut with no door in the school grounds. There’s no running water or power at the current school house, hell, there aren’t even any windows.
From his office, headmaster George runs a health outreach program that assists everyone in the hugely spread out community – crucially this includes the many people who are infected with HIV/AIDS.
The building is dark and gloomy inside, but once it’s full of children and teachers in many ways it’s no different from the many primary schools I’ve been visiting recently because my own daughter is due to start her formal education next year.
They’re stuck in a classic Catch 22 at the moment – they need government funding to buy the materials to deliver the quality of education (whatever the weather) these kids deserve, but until they have a proper, purpose built classroom they can’t get the support they need.
Steve’s doing an incredible job getting people involved in fundraising in the UK – I only wish I could go back to Zambia with him when next visits George and his team to see the difference the money has made.