Japanese Ambassador, H.E. Hidenobu Sobashima, Visits our Schools!

Today we have a piece on the Handover Ceremony from our intern on the ground, Kristen!

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017 was a big day at Joel Community School! We were joined by the Japanese Ambassador to Zambia H.E. Hidenobu Sobashima, his Royal Highness Chief M’ban’gombe, the Permanent Secretary of Eastern Province, and many other distinguished guests as they came to attend a handover ceremony for 3 schools funded by the Japanese Embassy in Lusaka.

Preparations for the day began early – ten cooks began preparing the meal at 7:00. The cooks were preparing enough nshima for a couple hundred people and while taking pictures, they suggested I try stirring the pot. I could barely even move the spoon through the nshima!

Guests began arriving at 8:00 as we were completing the last of the finishing touches. The turnout was large with around 500 people in attendance. There were headsmen and respected elders of the village, parents of Impact students, students themselves, and all of Impact School’s teachers. Students performed for the parents and staff as we waited for the Ambassador to arrive. They prepared a traditional dance routine and a series of songs.

Once the Ambassador and other distinguished guests arrived, the ceremony began when the Master of Ceremony, Mr. Fosters Mapata Mwanza, Head of Kalumbi School, led everyone in singing the national anthem. Afterwards, parents from Joel sang a welcoming song and three Nyau came for their first series of dances. As the Nyau were dancing, their assistants dug holes and set up two 20 foot tall tree trunks connected with wire, in preparation of the final dance. While they were dancing, the Master of Ceremony explained that the Nyau dancing in front of us were not human – they were animal spirits. The energy was very high as they drummed and danced and we were excited to see their following dances.

During the ceremony, all of the guests delivered speeches. Daniel Mwanza, the Regional Director of Impact Network, began by explaining what Impact Network does, and how we work to bridge the gap between urban and rural by using e-learning solutions. He explained that in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, Impact Network is able to provide education to over 2,300 students at 9 community schools in the region. He then explained that due to an increase in students, there has not been enough space to accommodate all learners. The grant provided by the Japanese Embassy is an answer to that problem as there are now six more usable classrooms for students.

Ambassador H.E. Hidenobu Sobashima delivered a speech regarding the grant and the Japanese Embassy’s role in grassroots projects across Zambia. He explained that over the last 30 years, the Japanese Government’s Grassroots Projects for Human Assistance has funded over 160 projects! A project such as Impact Network was selected for funding because of their sustainable plan to expand educational opportunities in underserved areas of Katete District.

Chief M’ban’gombe stressed the importance of education as he could see future doctors and teachers in the students at Impact Network schools. He emphasized how important it is to achieve universal literacy across Zambia and congratulated Impact Network on their hard work towards the realization of this goal. Chief M’ban’gombe donated the land on which Impact Schools sit and said he was appreciative to see that the Japanese Embassy assisted in the expansion of three community schools.

Students from Kanyelele and Joel Community Schools performed two poetry pieces which covered topics such as Nelson Mandela and the liberating power of education, ending early marriages through education, and thanking the Japanese Embassy for donating the classrooms to Impact Schools. Mr. H.E. Hidenobu Sobashima clapped very loudly during the first performance when the students bowed and said “domō arigatō gozaimasu”!

We moved on to the ribbon cutting and a tour of the new school block. Daniel Mwanza led his guests around the new building, showing the new facilities as funded by the Japanese embassy. After the ribbon cutting, we all made our way back to the center of the campus for another dance with about 20 Nyau total. The Nyau are an impressive sight – they wear masks and large headpieces. Because they represent the spirits of animals, they make guttural calls and whoops so it is easy to tell when they are nearby. Several teachers from Impact Schools told me to be careful, the Nyau spirits can be tricksters!  The final Nyau dance was a on a high wire 20+ feet above the ground. It was incredible to see the Nyau limberly climb up the pole and move on the wire. The spirit was of a bird so the Nyau danced upon the wire for a few minutes. As he was getting off of the wire, the wire snapped and he fell to the ground. I was worried but everyone told me he was fine – his fall was part of the routine and signified the magic that held him up had disappeared.

We ended our day with a reception in Chipata hosted by the Japanese Embassy. The reception began with remarks from the Ambassador and the Permanent Secretary of Eastern Province, followed by presentations by the 3 beneficiaries of Japanese grant money. It was inspiring to see the other projects happening in Zambia relating to food security, sustainable paper production, and agriculture. One common thread between the organizations present were the provision of schools in rural areas of Eastern Province. As the Permanent Secretary for Eastern Province said, quality schools are a fundamental ingredient for the Government of Zambia’s goal to achieve universal basic education. Impact Network will continue to provide quality learning environments for the children of Zambia and is very appreciative towards the Government of Japan for their assistance in that mission!

Until next time,

Kristen