In the early 1990’s, renowned HIV/AIDS researcher Dr. Allan Ronald and his wife Myrna visited Allan’s sister Marian in northwestern Zambia, a region torn by recent strife in neighbouring Angola and suffering from the impact of HIV and AIDS. They witnessed the plight of single and double orphans who had lost one or both parents to AIDS and who were often forced to fend for themselves. They visited the community of Chinema, where they found only children and elders. They also witnessed the determination of the elders to provide the children with basic education, and experienced a “classroom” of children meeting under a tree, ranging in age from 6 to 16, all in Grade One. Inspired by their experience, Allan, Myrna and Marion offered to help two local communities, Chinema and Samafunda, in their efforts to set up day schools for orphans and vulnerable children who could not afford the tuition charged by the state-run schools. In partnership with the Manyinga Community Resource Centre, the Manyinga Project was launched.
Slowly, and despite many challenges, much progress has been made:
- Two schools are now successfully running.
- New buildings have been erected at Sumafunda providing a safer and more effective learning environment.
- Approximately 400 children are enrolled at the two schools each year.
- There is now an appropriate age distribution in each grade.
- Some teacher’s residences, including Joan’s House, have been built, reducing time required for teachers to travel to the school.
- Graduation rate of students continue to be higher than the national average. Virtually all students at the schools graduate from Grade 7.
- The agricultural training component (Farm Initiative) is well underway at both schools.
- A land base of 22 limas (approx. 6 hectares) has been donated by the local communities and crop yields are improving significantly.
- Field crop rotations of maize (corn), cowpea and sweet potato are planted, and tomatoes, brassicas, Chinese cabbage, eggplant and onion are grown in the gardens.
- Orchards have been planted.
- Fencing has been built around vegetable gardens, orchards, and goat herds.
- A shelter has been built for a mobile hammer mill unit, used to process corn.
- The local government has taken an interest in the Farm Initiative at the Manyinga schools, with an eye to mirroring the program in other schools.
In addition to the educational and agricultural components, the children are benefiting from better health and nutrition.
- Each school receives regular visits from a health nurse, and students are taught about preventative measures for common afflictions such as tuberculosis, malaria, HIV/Aids and diarrhea.
- Deworming medicine is administered to all students and staff on a regular basis.
- Members of the local communities prepare lunch for the children at school several times a month; produce from the Farm Initiative is used to augment the nutritional program at the schools.
Looking to the Future
Despite the progress made, there is still much to do. Your generous contributions can help to:
- Support teacher’s salaries and assist in upgrading teaching qualifications
- Support crop input costs of the Farm Initiative; purchase of new trees and goats
- Support Agronomist salary and cost of nurse visits to the school
- Augment Feeding/Nutrition program beyond what is available from school gardens and the Farm Initiative
- Support costs of building infrastructure (fences, latrines, general maintenance costs)
The Story of Davis
For those working on the project, the stories of individual children are tremendously compelling. These are kids that want to learn and are thrilled to have their chance for an education. Some of them walk more than an hour each way to come to school. Indeed, one young man, a victim of polio that cost him use of his legs, actually dragged himself on a sledge to school for more than an hour until a specialized cart with hand pedals could be purchased for him. With free tuition, he passed his Grade 7 exams in Chinema.
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“I want to be a nurse <when I grow up>. It’s very important to help; to help people at the clinic or at the hospital. I think Chinema will help me become a nurse very well. “
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