Building a School Hall in Mufulira
Visiting schools in Mufulira, it impossible not to notice the ambition of the young for learning. If you ask children what they want to be when they grow up, they will say, doctor, nurse, teacher, computer scientist, just like any group of children in London. Unlike London, bearing in mind the mine and smelter on their doorstep, they also often say miner, chemist, or metallurgist.
But while the ideals are there, sometimes the facilities are not.
I came to know the teachers at Mine Primary School twelve years ago when one of their number, Godfridah Mwimbe, introduced me to her 'climate change group'. Together with the children we wrote to the mining company about the effects of airborne sulphur pollution on their daily life and learning. We weren't sure there would be much change but in the end the mining house installed sulphur capture equipment.
The school had set an example of informed advocacy and in the thick of the campaign the teachers had put their jobs on the line. As public servants who had spoken out, they could have been sacked. At one point, security people from the mine entered the school accusing the teachers of disloyalty to their country by reporting pollution in the foreign press. But the teachers stood their ground. 'We only reported what the children were saying about pollution and we do not think children lie about such things.'
The issue subsided, but our company wanted to find a way to salute the teachers and children who had made such a difference to their community. When I was shown plans (more like dreams) for a school hall, I saw that there was a chance to create a lasting tribute to what they had achieved and that would be of practical use for years to come.
Thanks to the untiring and skilled work of my good friend Mr Ebrony Peteli, and his co-operation with local planners, the Head Teacher and senior staff of Mine Primary this school hall is now complete.
It has a standing capacity of at least 800 but more importantly it has been built to an amazing standard. The head teacher once said to me 'This doesn't feel like our town', so different is it to anything in this poor part of Mufulira within sight of the smelter.
And now it will be used for so many purposes that it will give pride and act as a catalyst to propel the education and ambitions of the children who pass through its doors.
In a note Dorothy Mwenya, deputy head, writes about some of the uses to which the Hall will be put as follows:-
Benefits to learners: assemblies to protect children from harsh conditions such as dust from the mines, cold, strong winds, rains. Performances such as drama, poetry, debates, quizzes, exams, and cultural dances. Appropriate seating arrangements during national/final examinations and, because of its position, with little disturbance from the public.
Benefits to the teachers: teachers will hold meetings, workshops, seminars, conferences, assemblies, in-house training/teacher education, high profile fee-paying Head Teachers' meetings both district and provincial, also PTA (Parent Teacher Association) meetings.
Benefits to the community: the school will hire out the hall to the community to hold weddings, kitchen parties, come together parties, birthday parties, engagement parties, conferences, anniversaries, just to mention a few. A tuck shop is attached to the school hall to sell assorted goods including foodstuffs for functions, as well as on ordinary days. All these ventures will help the school to fund books to improve reading, listening and writing skills, facilitate the payment of water and electricity bills, purchase disinfectants, text books to enhance teaching and learning, improve the face of the school in order to attract more customers to come and book our school hall. This will be an added advantage to our community because it will be cheaper for them in terms of transport since it is within their catchment area. Even indoor games such as Table Tennis, Badminton, Chess and Pool, exhibitions.
For the moment, the Hall has not been named but we understand the children have all been asked to submit their ideas.