A New World of Education

January 1, 2011
It was 110 degrees. Sweat dripped down my face as i rode through the streets of Livingstone, Zambia. Each bump jolted my body upward as dust flew through the windows of the crowded van. My skin stuck to the arms of the people around me, forming an uncomfortable film of sweat I couldn’t escape. A smile spread across my face as I gazed out of the window, eager to arrive at the local community school where I would be teaching. As the van screeched through an open gate, my heart rate increased, nervous to give my lesson. The van doors were slammed open by local children awaiting our arrival. “Mazungu bus!” (white people bus), they shouted as I stepped onto the hot sand. Chaos erupted as other volunteers began to arrive. Children ran everywhere with outstretched arms, hoping to be lifted up. Volunteers walked around aimlessly, confused of where to go. As I stood among the excitement barefoot children ran toward me, extending their arms to touch my white skin, as if they were checking to see if I was real.



I was pulled away from the swarms of children softly, by a boy who looked to be about my age. “I am Victor”, he shouted over the laughter of the children. “I am the headmaster here” He led me into a small classroom, filled with fifth grade students chatting and running around the room. The only light came through the open doorway we stood in, and a small hole in the ceiling, making it nearly impossible to make out any faces. Victor left the room, shutting the door behind him, leaving me alone with the class in the now dark room. My heart rate pulsed through my fingertips as I became aware that the room was completely silent; all eyes were on me. Whispers broke the silence followed by uncontrollable laughter as I began to pass out blank sheets of white paper, and explain the assignment. My directions seemed to go unnoticed; laughter grew louder and my calls to pay attention were ignored. The students stared down at their paper, shifting them back and forth on their desks. An awkward silence filled the room, periodically disturbed by pencils falling on the cement floor, and small fingertips drumming across the desks. I felt helpless and nervous than I had before my arrival. I never thought teaching would be this challenging.


I tried to encourage the students to draw, by showing them my example, and making hand gestures at their own papers, but no progress was made. Just as I began to lose hope completely, the silhouette of a young woman filled the doorway. Her high heels clicked with each step as she approached me. “I’m Loveness.” She said, her white teeth glowing in the dim room. “I’m the students regular teacher.” Laughter and chatter broke again as the students minds began to wander further from their assignments. I explained what I was trying to have the students draw as Loveness glanced around the room. When I was finished, she stepped on top of a large board at the front of the room and clapped her hands three times. She began speaking to the students in Nyanja, a language familiar to the students, yet entirely foreign to me. Students immediately began drawing on their formally blank sheets of paper confidently.. My eyes widened, and my jaw dropped as I observed the students completing their drawings effortlessly. “They have a very hard time understanding you.” Loveness explained in broken English. “There are 76 local languages in Zambia, English is only taught on school. so not all students can understand it at all.” Loveness went on to explain that Zambian children face many challenges to receive an education. The first, being financial struggles. There are two types of schools in Zambia, Community and Basic schools. Students who attend basic schools pay a fee to enroll and go to school 7 hours a day. Students who attend community schools have a much smaller fee to enroll but only attend school for a two hours a day due to the lack of recourses provided for the school. Teachers salaries are very low, if anything; teachers like Loveness teach for the good of the children and their dedication for education.


Teaching at the community school opened my eyes to a new world of education. I had never thought of the challenges students face to go to school, financially and because of the restrictions language creates. Watching the children struggle to complete the assignment in English, the language all classes are taught in, made me wonder how much students are able to take in daily. I said goodbye to Loveness, and waved to the smiling faces in the class toom, feeling inspired to learn more about education in Africa, and to one day make a difference in the lives of the students like Loveness does everyday.





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