Zambia has been hit hard over the past three decades by multiple public health challenges and the grinding reality of poverty. The result has been an increase in the number of orphans and vulnerable children. According to the World Bank, in provinces dominated by agriculture (like the Kabompo District in which the Manyinga schools are located), over 70% live in poverty. Since state schools charge tuition in Zambia, these children are at risk of being “left behind”. Without the opportunity to go to school for education, socialization, and language skills, it is unlikely these children will break the poverty cycle.
With this in mind, the local community has banded together with the Loloma Hospital and the Manyinga Community Resource Centre to develop two schools, one at Chinema and one at Samafunda. These schools welcome orphans and vulnerable children, charging no tuition and providing an education from Grades 1-7. Both schools have a higher success rate at passing the state exam in Grade 7 than the state-run schools in the community.
The goal of the Manyinga Project is to support the two schools to a state of self-sufficiency. However, progress toward this goal will take time. In the meantime, financial support is needed to help sustain the significant progress made in education, agricultural training, health and nutrition, and basic infrastructure for students at the two schools.
The government has recognized the benefit of the two schools and pays for a head master / mistress at each school. It is expected that over the coming years, the government will formally place other teachers at the schools, reducing the fundraising requirement. Until then, support is needed to cover the teachers’ salaries and ongoing cost of certification and training (approximately $1500 per teacher per year).
In addition, the local community has donated land to each school, and the Farm Initiative is part of the student’s curriculum. This innovative training program is designed to give the children skills to become viable commercial farmers and successful gardeners. Students can gain experience planting field scale crops, tending gardens, orchards and raising livestock. The harvest from the gardens helps to supplement the nutritional needs of the students, and harvest from the field crops can generate income to support a portion of the school’s operating costs. The operating costs of the Farm Initiative for both schools is approximately $15,000 per year. This includes the salary of a trained agronomist, crop inputs, trees for orchards, veterinary bills, rental for oxen and plough, and infrastructure costs.
The school facilities are basic – mud brick classrooms, dirt floor, most with no windows, but built with community labour. Latrines and some storage facilities, as well as teachers’ residences, have been built. There are ongoing needs to support the infrastructure costs such as tools, lumber and fencing supplies.