This week, our Director of Expansion in Zambia – Karly Southworth – has a story from the field. Thanks, Karly!
When I chose this week to write this post, I had not remembered Thursday was Thanksgiving in the US. Having lived abroad for so many years, I tend not to keep track of such things. Of course, very few people in Zambia know about this holiday, but it got me thinking about what the holiday means. I don’t mean how it came to be, but the way most Americans experience the holiday today is through gathering with family and friends.
The work we are doing here in Zambia is undoubtedly tied to family.
Recently, a teacher came to me with a concern about the attendance of his pupils. Martin teaches a double session so there are quite a number of pupils regularly attending his classes, though he is genuinely concerned about the ones who are enrolled and not coming. He spoke to some of the parents and explained that their responses were similar, that the child is needed in the field or to tend the animals. Being a parent himself, he wondered how the parents of his pupils could prioritize farming and livestock rearing over education. His school, like most other Impact schools, is in a farming community. Most people experience life in a small radius and produce what they need for survival. Although a child’s achievement is linked to attendance at school, a change in attitude towards education within a family unit is not a simple thing.
At a community meeting, I attended not long ago, a discussion took place about some parents allowing their first grade aged children to mine for gold rather than attend school. Impact Assistant Hope Zimba spoke about the importance of education and encouraged the parents to send their children to school for the benefit of the child as well as the family’s future. She shared that she is 23, not married and doesn’t have children and there was an audible gasp in the meeting. She countered with this “No, there is nothing wrong with me. I have chosen to hold off on these things and develop myself. I’m still going to school because I want to advance myself further.” Her point was not to say that children should be like her but to say that education is valuable and that it had opened doors for her. It certainly helps that Hope’s mother is an educator and a high value was placed on education for her and her siblings from the very start.
Every aspect of what we do can be traced to family. At the community meetings that have taken place in the last few months, Impact has communicated that school fees are not necessary for our pupils and this has significantly reduced the financial burden many families face. In the expansion project, each community is different, but we are fortunate to have dedicated teachers who care deeply about the performance of their pupils. They realize the importance of the community and family in education and advocate for attendance and parent involvement. We have received positive feedback from several communities with regards to the commitment of Impact teachers and we hope that they inspire and motivate the teachers that work alongside them to show up consistently and give all they have to offer to the children.
This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for not having to question my education.