Sweaty was never a word my mother encouraged, “Horses sweat, dear”, she would say, “and men perspire, but ladies only glow”. I think of this as I drive back to my home in the community and cannot believe that whoever thought up that one had been to Zambia in November.
Imagine . . .
. . . it’s the end of a hot Zambian November day and you’ve been out and about in an open Land Rover. You are thoroughly ‘glowing’ and most of Mfuwe’s dust is sticking to every bit of exposed skin. The rest is in your ears, eyes or up your nose. It’s essential that you take a shower before bed . . . for the sake of the sheets, if nothing else. So there you stand, having just worked up a lovely lather with the shampoo, when the water slows to a trickle and finally stops. This has been happening almost every day for the last month or so and we’re well past the swearing stage. We’re used to it, it’s an inconvenience – but that is all.
Here in South Luangwa
. . . the last rainy season can only best be described as late, short and very inadequate. To the local people it meant a poor cotton crop and, in many areas, no rice crop at all. These are cash crops which many families sell to pay school fees or buy the odd essential item such as soap or salt. The lack of rain early in 2013 affected the maize crops too; I know of one lady whose field usually yields fourteen sacks – but this year she got just two. Maize is used to make nsima and it’s far more than just the staple food – it’s vital part of Zambian life.
As we wait for the new rains to really start, the water table continues to drop and many of the shallower wells and boreholes in the area start to dry up. Some are dry for a few hours, some for days and some will perhaps be useless until we get substantial rain. When a local villager relies on a well or borehole for every drop of water they need they develop an intimate knowledge of its patterns. They’ll predict how long it’ll be before it again produces water . . . and so they plan. Perhaps, by waking at 4am – or even earlier, there may be water and perhaps the queue will be short. In most families it is the kids who fetch water and, in particular, the girls, so they are the ones who are most likely to be found queuing to fill their buckets in the dark before dawn.
Over the last month pupils have been sitting their
. . . grade 7 and grade 9 exams. These are important exams that affect the future of every Zambian pupil as the results will decide if they’ll be offered a place at a secondary school. But, having queued for water in the early hours and most likely gone to school without breakfast, all a child can do is to try their best . . . and hope that this coming season the rains will be better. If not, their family will not be able to afford their school fees anyway as there’ll be little cotton or rice to sell. So my soapy hair is an inconvenience but that is all – it won’t affect my future.
Against all the odds
. . . a great many of these pupils will pass their exams; they are keen, they work hard and have great determination. But, however good their results, if their family lacks the money to pay school fees they’ll never be able to attend a secondary school without help.
Each January, at the start of the new school year, pupils seeking school sponsorship begin to queue at our office door. This year, because of the lack of rain, we are expecting the queues to be far longer than in the past. If you would like to find out more check out our sponsorship booklet or email [email protected] to register your interest in helping one of these kids attend school – we’ll let you know as soon as we start to list needy pupils on the website.
We need . . .volunteers
It’s short notice but on 14th December 24 local kids will be going on safari at Kafunta Safari Lodge and we could do with some help. That’s a week of game drives and fun in the pool.
Just after Christmas we need help (8 to 12 weeks) with sorting out all the old and new sponsored kids. You’d be joining another volunteer and working alongside me mostly in the Project Luangwa office – you’ll already know about the fantastic view if you are a Facebook fan but if you are not then just look at the photo!
Throughout next year we are looking for people with enthusiasm for books and reading to help with in the new library at Mfuwe Day Secondary School.
If you are interested
. . . in these or any other opportunities (teaching literacy or project management, for example) please contact us for more information