Jasmine Primary School in the village of Shamabanse, Zambia, has undergone some unprecedented growth recently. Sweeping changes in the Ministry of Education have caused other primary schools in the area to convert to secondary schools, forcing hundreds of primary-age children to find another school. As a result, the student body has more than doubled in size over the span of just a few months.
When we sat down with the headmaster and teachers, they told us how overwhelming it has been to accommodate the influx of students, with 1,150 children trying to learn in just five classrooms. Currently, there are three streams of grade one, and two streams for every other grade. Despite the challenges, they know this school is essential to the vulnerable children in the community. Children like Helen Chizela.
Helen is in grade two and her teacher, Rose Kunda, estimates that Helen is about seven years old, though no one knows exactly when Helen was born. Her mother died when she was very young, and her father has another family on a farm outside of the area. Helen lives with her unemployed uncle in a home with seven other children. Money and food are hard to come by, and with her eyes downcast she shook her head “no” when we asked if she had anything to eat that day.
School has been the main source of Helen’s hope for a brighter future. Her teacher told us how Helen is doing very well in all of her classes. She is writing numbers, writing the alphabet, copying sentences, and even started reading in her vernacular language. Reading happens to be Helen’s favourite subject, though she enjoys writing as well.
With so many obstacles in Helen’s life, Miss. Kunda told us that this community school, built by Visionledd, is the only thing keeping children like Helen on a path of education. Too often, when parents cannot afford government schools, children find themselves begging and stealing on the streets. Without this school, that life could have been Helen’s. For now, we pray that God will strengthen this bright and beautiful child, and that Helen will one day realize her dream of becoming a nurse.
At Visionledd, we know that every child is valuable in the eyes of God, and every child deserves a chance for education. We will continue to walk with the students and teachers at Jasmine Primary School as they work through the challenges of this student influx, because we know it’s making a difference in the lives of children like Helen.