Congratulations, Francis Sakala!

Last week, Impact Network was represented at the Chimtende Zone Science Fair. Roughly 90 students from grades 2-4 attended the fair, and 10 students of those students came from Mkale Community School. Francis Sakala, a grade 3 student at Mkale, came in 3rd place! He will compete at the Katete District fair later this month!

I traveled to Mkale to ask Francis some questions about his experience competing in the science fair. Joseph, our Operations Manager, drove me out on the motorbike. Mkale School is one of the furthest schools from the office and it takes over an hour to get there by motorbike. The journey there is beautiful, rock formations and huge baobab trees dot the way. I learned that Mkale gets its name from the Mkale stream just behind the school. Mkale hosts grades 1-7 and serves over 200 students. The nearest government school is several kilometers away. The distance between schools is always a reminder of how far some students would have to travel if there weren’t Impact schools near their homes.  

Francis comes from Msonde Village which is right next to Mkale School. He was very shy during our interview, probably because he had an audience of his curious peers watching as we asked him questions. Francis speaks some English but we needed a translator. Sylvester Banda, a Grade 5 teacher, helped us out. Sylvester took all of the students from Mkale to the science fair so he was able to answer some additional questions.

Mangani Banda on the left, Francis in the middle, and Sylvester Banda on the right

Mangani Banda on the left, Francis in the middle, and Sylvester Banda on the right

Hi Francis, congratulations on winning the science fair!  What was your project?

I made an antibiotic paste to kill bacteria using local materials.

Did anyone help you with making the antibiotic paste?

Mr. John Lungu, head teacher at Mkale showed me which materials to use and how to prepare the paste.  

How did you feel about winning the science fair?

I was very excited to win!

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I want to be a doctor when I grow up.

Were your parents excited when you won?

They were very excited when I told them. They encouraged me to continue on in the same spirit!

I spoke with Mangani Banda, Francis’s 3rd grade teacher. He, like Francis’s parents, was very proud when he learned that Francis won. He is excited to see where Francis goes from here! I’m sure Francis has a lot of supporters from the Impact Network community and we will be rooting for him when he attends the Katete District Science Fair.

-- Kristen Fraley, Program Implementation Intern

It was written in the sky...

I arrived in Zambia on March 13, just one day after the 2017 Africa U-20 Cup of Nations (hosted by Zambia!) wrapped up. The top four teams qualified for the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup in South Korea – and Zambia came in first.  The buzz in the country reminded me of the beloved 2012 Africa World Cup team and win. .  It was a politically charged event – Libya and Tunisia both qualified for the tournament despite the political turmoil in their nations at the time.  In the final, during a dramatic shootout, Zambia defeated third-time finalists (and favorites to win) Cote d’Ivoire.  It was the country’s first continental title, and the Zambian team dedicated the win to the members of the national team who died in the 1993 Zambian national football team plane crash. 

More than two decades ago, the Chipolopolo were a promising Zambian team with their eye on the 1993 African World Cup.  In the late evening of April 27, 1993, the plane ditched into the Atlantic Ocean, about 500 yards away from Libreville, Gabon, killing all of the passengers and crew, including 18 players.  After losing almost the entire team in the crash, the country faced the difficult task of resurrecting a new team to compete in only a few months. Defying all odds, they reached the final in the 1993 African World Cup, and played against Nigeria – despite a loss, they returned home national heroes.

In 2012, while the celebrations continued, the team’s coach, Hervé Renard, had only one explanation: “There was a special spirit with us,” he said. “It was written in the sky.”  In the three days before the final game, Kalusha Bwalya – one of the only survivors from the 1993 team – led the team to the beach of Libreville to honor the team that they had lost two decades before. The team walked as close as they could to where the plane went down, said a few prayers, and paid their respects.

I thought this was a poignant reminder of the strength we gain in remembering where our beginnings lie.  Each of us will face struggles in our daily work, and in our personal lives.  And each of our scholars faces struggles as they progress through their education.  But focusing on these struggles alone will get us nowhere – we must build from it, gain strength from it, and endure.  If we want to succeed in changing the fate of education for our students, we have no choice.  But just like a football team – we are not alone in this determination.  We all have one another to rely on, to gain strength from, to lean on.  And together, we will succeed – I have no doubt.  We must have faith that it is also written in the sky for us – that we are destined to succeed in our work to educate our students.  We must believe in our work and our mission wholly to find the strength to persevere. 

- Reshma

Reflections from Joel village...

After a two week hiatus, we are back!  I am rounding out my last day of a two-week trip here to our projects and return more humbled, more invigorated, and more excited about our future ahead.

Over my time here, I have had the immense privilege of seeing:

  • 100% of Teachers on the Exam Committee arriving on time and ready to work!  Our exam committee for term 1 met on Saturday to develop questions and exams for our upcoming end-of-term exams. It was my first time seeing the incredible dedication, time and energy in the room to ensure our students are being tested fairly and accurately.  Amazing work!
  • Teamwork – real, messy and productive team work.  From large group meetings to smaller discussions, our management team came to the table with great ideas and creative solutions to improve our programs and plan for our expansion.
  • Board Member, Anup Patel, experienced our students and schools for the first time.  From watching little people learn to read and write to seeing older scholars complete complex mathematical equations – seeing it from someone for the first time is always a powerful moment for the team.
  • Huge progress towards meeting our goals of educating students through the primary grades. Our biggest group of grade 7 students yet – 4 classes! – is working hard NOW to prepare for their examinations in November.  Our teachers are reinforcing that to be successful, they need to work a little bit each day towards a goal.

As always, our scholars were engaged in their own education, but what struck me this visit was the amazing dedication of our 60 teachers.  From our oldest teachers to ones hired just a few short months ago, I saw teachers working closely with students to learn how to write the letter S, to learn how to calculate the area of a triangle, to draw an insect, and to improve their public speaking.  Enjoy some pictures of the adventure!

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,