Volunteer teachers bridging education gap in Zambia

DM Monitoring

LUSAKA: Jack Chola is a well-known and respected member of the Misisi Compound, a popular slum located in the heart of Zambia’s capital Lusaka.
Chola’s popularity stems from the fact that he is an active member of a team of volunteer teachers that serve in community schools in the Misisi Compound.
Like many of Zambia’s community school teachers, Chola works under very difficult conditions and has to work with very minimal support and resources.
“My greatest joy comes from seeing children make to grade 8 which is secondary school,” said Chola, who has been a community school teacher for over seven years and currently serving as a volunteer teacher at the Misisi Community School. According to him, education is the best equalizer that offers opportunities for children from disadvantaged communities to look forward to a brighter future.
“I think education remains the best tool for countering poverty and other social ills confronting humanity. Beyond just learning how to read and write, having the opportunity to be in class also exposes one to ideas and knowledge that they would otherwise not have,” Chola asserts.
Every year on October 5 as the world commemorates “World Teachers’ Day”, community school teachers who continue to contribute to the educational needs of poorer communities are seldom celebrated.
In Zambia, community school teachers who mostly volunteer with very basic training in teaching have been instrumental in meeting the education gap of children from vulnerable and low-income communities.
Most of these teachers are often overwhelmed by the many children that need to be in class. At the Misisi community school, for instance, there are only five members of staff overseeing over 500 children.
Notwithstanding these challenges, these volunteers press on with a desire to help educate children from vulnerable households and go an extra mile just to provide a service.
“Many families and children in the slums and rural areas of Zambia are not able to afford school uniforms, shoes, books, and other expenses that the government schools may have to require for a child to be enrolled in school,” explains Simpson Nyirongo, a teacher at a community in Lusaka’s John Laing compound.
Nyirongo, who also sits on a number of community development initiatives boards, further explains that in some cases lack of government-run school has pushed communities to invest in community schools, which are often run by volunteers or untrained teachers.
He adds that community schools in Zambia are mostly community-based and faith-based initiatives that exist to secure education opportunities for learners outside the government school system.