Outreach Zambia has been working with the community of Mapande since 2016. And some of the accomplishments the people there have achieved for themselves are remarkable. One project outcome in particular is truly amazing.
With the guidance of the Human Development Facilitator (HDF), using the Participatory Human Development process (PHDP), the people in Mapande decided to prioritize solving an issue they faced. There was an absence of any school infrastructure. Helping children learn and grow up to be productive and prosperous in life is at the core of every parent’s efforts. But in Mapande before that time, they simply didn’t know how to make progress toward that goal.
Identifying the Issue
When they began to meet and discuss their issues in 2017, no school existed nearby. The children were required to walk a great distance and cross a busy and dangerous roadway to have access to an education. Needless to say, not every child could do so, especially the youngest among them. So, the community set up their own nursery school in Mapande.
For the first step in the process, they found a structure where the children could meet. They located a basic grass roof held up by wooden poles. This created a space for the children to gather with some protection from the weather and to identify as their school.
Two volunteers, Clementina and Nicolas, joined the effort as unpaid teachers, and at one point they were teaching as many as 125 children. That’s how popular the project was – how welcome a solution. Clementina gave her time and expertise even though she had to travel from another community to teach every day.
After two years of running the nursery school in Mapande, in 2019, the Ministry of Education in Zambia noticed the work being done. Soon after, some representatives visited the school. They were impressed with the volunteer efforts and the participation of so many children. And, they advised the community group of additional steps they could take. This would get them recognized as an official school in Zambia, make them eligible for government funding. But in order to be recognized, one major improvement was necessary. They needed a permanent schoolhouse.
The community didn’t have building materials. They didn’t have funding to buy them. So they got to work. They made bricks. Thirty thousand of them. And they laid the foundation for a three-room school building. They built the walls high enough to meet the government standard to be recognized as a permanent schoolhouse. For the time-being, they still relied on wooden poles and a grass roof to complete the building, but with this improvement, real systemic support and government funding could begin.
In 2020 and 2021, progress greatly slowed because of the pandemic. However, the government still provided supplies such as books, furniture, pencils, and hand-washing stations. After all that time, all that work, the community group in Mapande was finally starting to see their years of perseverance begin to pay dividends.
Now, the Ministry of Education funds 80% of the school’s expenses. And once the school achieves full accreditation, they’ll fund 100%. And after three years of volunteer work, the teachers now receive a salary, and they even hired a third teacher to help meet the needs of the children and take some of the burden from Clementina and Nicolas.
Making It Last
As proud as they were of their school building and all it provided, another rainy season was coming. So, the community group, having by now learned even more from their HDF, applied to Outreach International for funding to purchase materials to build a roof of wooden timbers and sheet metal. They got funds approved, purchased materials, and now the school is a solid brick structure with three classrooms, boy’s and girl’s latrines, and a safe and solid roof. And most recently, the students received school uniforms.
And most any school anywhere has a roadside sign. It announces their presence, their purpose and their place in the world. When the nursery school in Mapande put up their sign, it provided a singular moment of pride. It made it real, legitimate. It was their stake in the ground.
Credit Where It’s Due
And the government recognition didn’t stop there. After three years of volunteer work, and the resulting education the children were demonstrating with their progress in the classroom, Clementina and Nicolas received recognition by the Ministry of Education, who awarded them with the designation of “Most Hardworking Teachers” in 2021.
The Outreach PHD Process
Participatory Human Development. A community group gathering to learn and then act to solve the problems that have kept them in poverty. In this instance, a nursery school in Mapande, providing a safe, convenient, quality learning environment for their children. Sustainable development with a hugely positive impact that will be felt for generations to come.
What’s the next challenge the Mapande community group will face? We can’t wait for them to tell us, and then see how they will, without a doubt, conquer it.