by Hilda Cracknell

I came upon Twali Community School in December 2015. The school was so different from all others I had seen, even in the rural areas of Zambia. It saddened me to realise that people living so close to a major mining town on the Zambian Copperbelt had no better schooling facility than a tiny shack with untrained voluntary teachers. This challenged me to show the love of Christ in a practical way.

The people in Twali are peasant farmers, working the land where they live rent free. They have no other source of income, except during the rainy season when they can get piecework cultivating and planting. As this does not pay much, parents take their children out of school to work and help bring in some money. Hopelessness abounds and drunkenness is common. What little money they have is often spent on cheap beer.

Women and children go out into the bush to look for edible roots or vegetables. A few have vegetable gardens and some run small shops, which help to bring in a meagre income. Girls are married off at an early age, as young as 14 or 15. An average family has six children among whom resources have to be spread very thinly.

This challenged me to show the love of Christ in a practical way

The Twali Community School consisted of one small building, 3x6m, divided into two rooms for 75 pupils in Grades 1-4 with one volunteer teacher. I decided to help out at the school on a weekly basis. I started teaching Bible lessons using BES material, and knitting. It was a huge challenge as it took us 20-30 minutes just to set up for the lesson. The classrooms were small and dark and did not look safe. The children had to take their seats (bricks) outside, one to sit on and another to use as a table. This is a big task for a six-year-old as each brick weighsabout 5kg. At the end of the lesson, the worksheets would be covered in dirt and there might be a couple of injuries from moving the bricks. As the number of pupils increased, it became more difficult and time consuming. I realised that having a bigger and better building was a priority.

A Community Builds

As I worked with the local people, I got to know them and had the opportunity to explain how they could use the resources they have to improve their standard of living. I encouraged them to work hard and to value the education of their children as it would help improve their lives in the long run. This was not an easy lesson to take in as most people want to see immediate results. I thank God that a few people understood and over time I began to see change.

To discourage a life of dependency, I supplied goods like bedding, Bibles, shoes, soap and cement in exchange for charcoal, chickens and, at times, for work. This concept was applied to the development of the school.

The community started moulding bricks from ant hills and clearing the site for a new classroom. I raised funds by selling second-hand goods cheaply to the community. Most of the items I sold were donated by ladies from my church. Enough money was raised to buy cement to complete one classroom. This system helped people build self-esteem as they were no longer begging or expecting handouts. The ladies from my church helped by moving bricks to the building site and organising programmes for the students.

Amano Christian School (ACS) decided to have their community week at Twali. The students helped to mould bricks and lay a foundation for a block of three classrooms. This was far more than the community had hoped for, encouraging and motivating them to work even harder. The community had to build the walls, then ACS would install a tin roof.

The first classroom went up quickly as I was able to visit the school twice a week to help supervise the work. In October 2017, the new area councillor, Elias Mumba, donated bags of cement as a way of thanking the community for their vote, and this helped to finish the second classroom. ACS returned to help complete the project, supplying the materials required with an arrangement that the community would exchange charcoal for these provisions. In July 2017, the first classroom was finished. By September, all three classrooms were in use; we had three teachers and about 120 pupils. An engineering company donated a solar-powered water pump and tank, a welcome help as it made brick-making much easier. Throughout this time, I visited the education offices to see if the school could be taken over by the government, as they would provide trained teachers and funding to help equip the school. In March 2018, the good news came that the school was no longer a community school but was now a fully fledged primary school, under the jurisdiction of the government. There is a head teacher, a deputy head and one senior teacher, with a promise of more trained teachers to come. The community teachers will be retained but may be given other responsibilities.

The head teacher started work immediately. Together we were able to go round other schools and ask for old desks, chairs and tables. Friends donated money for new desks and boards to refurbish the old ones we had received. The community went to work again, moulding more bricks for another three classrooms and a house for a caretaker. A local supporter donated cement to plaster the classrooms and promised paint.

In March 2018, the good news came that the school was no longer a community school but was now a fully fledged primary school

The current pupils were registered and new ones enrolled, bringing the number to 250. As a government school, the pupils have to wear a uniform. I am working with a local widow, Mrs Chiyesu, a lovely hard-working Christian woman, to provide the uniforms. Part of the proceeds will go to her and help with her family needs.

Hope for the Community

Naomi – One of the parents, Naomi Lumayi, gave thanks for what God had done for the community. She said that God had remembered them and sent a ‘Moses’, just as He had done for the children of Israel when they were in Egypt. Naomi described the community of Twali as being in slavery to ignorance. Before we began this project, she had given up hope of her children getting a decent education at Twali. She was going to send her children away to a nearby town for school. Naomi and her husband worked very hard during the building of the classrooms. She encouraged other parents to be cooperative. At the last prize-giving day, all three of Naomi’s children got an award.

Mapalo – Mapalo’s mother had never been to school, so she was keen for her daughter to be educated. Mapalo, whose name means blessings, was enrolled in Twali but due to all the problems then, her mother moved her to a nearby town. One day, as Mapalo was on her way to school there, she was nearly hit by a car. Her grandfather took her back to the village and Mapalo stopped attending school. When the school was built at Twali and teachers were recruited, Mapalo’s mother brought her back and now she is doing very well.

Dede – Dede, pronounced day-day, is 15 years old and one of nine children. He was the only one in his family who had an interest in school. His mother stopped him going to school as she thought it was a waste of time. She wanted Dede to work and help look after his siblings. I could tell Dede loved school and wanted to learn, so I spoke with his mother but she could not see the benefit of school. With no teachers and the building in such a terrible state, there seemed to be no hope of her son getting any education. As the building work progressed, Dede started coming to school more regularly and within a year he was able to read and write. His mother is so proud of him that she has brought her other children to the school.

I am encouraged with what God is doing in this community; many lives are changing for the better. As the head teacher will now run the school and oversee its projects, I will resume my Bible teaching and home management classes. The head teacher has agreed to give me some hours each week to teach. I am so excited as it will give me more time with the students, and more opportunities to share God’s Word and demonstrate His love. I thank God for the opportunity to serve Him through this community and for all the people who have helped. God has indeed been faithful!

Pray:

  • for the new head teacher, as he takes on the challenge of running the school
  • for Hilda as she continues working with the community
  • for the children attending Twali Primary School
  • for more opportunities to share the gospel in the community.