Ubley Primary School’s Zambia Link
For nearly 10 years, the school has had a link with St Francis Basic School, Msoro in the rural Eastern Province of Zambia. This has been part of the link that the Diocese of Bath & Wells has had with the country for over 25 years.
Firstly, the Ubley Sunbeams group sent out £17 from the children’s’ Sunday offerings to help build two pit latrines for the pupils. Later, the school became involved with the liaison and the pupils from both schools exchanged letters, scrapbooks and photographs.
The friendship between the two communities was strengthened in 2001 when Marilyn MacLeod, the leader of the Sunbeams group, who was also Chair of the Ubley School Governors, visited Msoro and stayed with the Headteacher Mr Crispin Banda and his wife Mary. In the Autumn of that year the Dean of St Luke’s Cathedral in Msoro also came Ubley as part of a visit to the Bath & Wells Diocese. He has since been promoted to Bishop of the Eastern Province of Zambia and visited the school again in July 2004.
In 2002 the school managed to get a grant from the League for the Exchange of Commonwealth Teachers which enabled two members of the Ubley School staff (Sally Benwell and Jill Toman) to visit St Francis School and for Crispin & Mary Banda to visit Ubley and the Diocese of Bath & Wells.
This was a wonderful opportunity for the pupils to hear at first hand about life in Msoro and St Francis School and for the teachers involved in the exchange to experience life in totally different environments. For the Banda’s, it was “the trip of a lifetime “ as they had never before been out of Zambia and rarely even gone far from the rural bush around Msoro.
As well as spending some time in Ubley School and Chew Valley Secondary School to see how children in England are taught, they visited London and were shown round Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament before going on the London Eye and seeing some of the capital’s famous sights.
Mrs Toman and Mrs Benwell’s visit was a wonderful opportunity to sample the “real Africa” and to appreciate both its rich culture and natural beauty. Despite considerable hardships the Msoro community were always smiling and welcoming. They lived in strong family groups, at one with their environment, and extremely grateful for the help given as a result of the relationship between the two communities.
St Francis School & Msoro Mission
The school is part of an Anglican Mission Station deep in the African bush, which was founded in 1910 and has grown to serve about 600 pupils. The local community has over 12,000 pupils who are principally subsistence farmers who live in traditional thatched mud-wall houses, which are grouped in small settlements nearby a communal well. (see photos). The villages have no running water, sanitation or electricity. They are dependent on their crop of maize for survival. Most women have at least 5 children.
The Msoro Mission comprises the brick built Cathedral of St Luke’s, St Luke’s Secondary School, a basic medical clinic, teachers’ houses and accommodation for some boarding secondary pupils.
The pupils often walk 5 or 6 miles to school for a 7am start and no food is provided during the day. The classes are large and the classrooms are only equipped with a blackboard and desks. There are few resources and therefore teaching is carried out mainly by “chalk and talk”.
In common with many other African countries, Zambia is losing a whole generation to Aids resulting in a growing crisis in the number of teachers available. The life expectancy of the country has dropped from 54 in 1980 to 35 in 2004.
Collections from church services, harvest markets, non-uniform days and various sponsored activities have enabled the school to send out contributions to assist projects at St Francis and to improve the facilities and quality of life for people in the area.
Work undertaken recently with Ubley’s support
- replacement of the school toilets, which were destroyed by floods in Autumn 2004
- providing the school and the teachers’ houses with tap water
- fencing the school orchard and garden to protect from scavenging animals
- renovating the “Ubley” classroom where termites have destroyed the wooden roof supports.
- assisting with the programme of providing all the classrooms with grill doors to improve security
The Link in the future
Mr Crispin Banda, the Headteacher for many years at St Francis, retired in December 2005 and has been replaced by Mr Carol Phiri. The new Head and the new Dean of St Luke’s are very keen to maintain the strong bond that exists between the two schools and local communities and it is hoped that in the future there will be further exchange visits.
Latest news from Zambia November 2011