Back to school in Zambia

Reading The White Masai for #travelbookclub brought back lots of memories of my trips to Africa last year and I spent some time looking through my photos from South Africa and Zambia. It was only then that I realised how many stories I hadn’t had time to share when I got home, so I thought I would address that issue now by posting some of them.

These pictures were taken in Zambia, which I visited as part of the International Reporting Project. One of the areas I was looking into during my trip was education in the country and I went to a school in the compound (or slum) of N’gombe in the capital of Lusaka. People in N’gombe are very poor and often struggle to get by on a day to day basis, as we discovered when we visited one of the clinics there.

At the Tico Community School the children are extremely focused on their studies, for most education is the only chance they will get to fight their way out of poverty. I later discover that some of the pupils are sponsored by their neighbours or parents’ friends, with everyone doing what little they can to ensure that the next generation receives a good education.

But Tico school is also important because a new teaching system is currently on trial there. iSchool, which was set up by Brit Mark Bennett, aims to address many of the problems Zambia faces in terms of education, including large class sizes and a shortage of trained teachers. It uses ZEduPad computer tablets, which cover the whole of the Zambian school curriculum, to enable pupils to take part in interactive learning (rather than the rote learning which is currently used in most schools). It is available in eight local languages and also includes lesson plans for the teachers.

The children in the grade two class we visited were learning how to count multiples of ten and had been divided into three manageable groups. The first group was using bottle tops to count, the second was writing sums from the board and the third group was using the handheld tablets to count chickens. The groups then rotate, which means that only a small number of the handsets are required in each classroom.

Speaking to their teacher, Rachel Ngongola, it was amazing to hear about the difference the new system had made to her classroom. She now feels more confident in her teaching and literacy and maths rates have soared in her class.

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The positivity I felt at Tico Community School was infectious and really reminded of the fact that a good education can be life-changing.

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