Friday, 27 January 2017

Despite Dilapidated School, Kamakonde Pupils Score High

Agness Nkomeshya with her mother sitting outside their house
By Paul Shalala

Sometimes, good fortunes come from humble beginnings.

Men and women have risen from squalid existence to make it in life.

And even the schools they may have attended are nothing to talk about.

This perhaps is the road on which Agness Nkomeshya is trotting along.

From her home in Kamakonde area to her school in the same neighbourhood, nothing eases her daily hardships.

Kamakonde is a slum in the western part of Kitwe, the second largest city in Zambia.

This 13-year girl old who lost her father two years ago, has only her mother to fend for her.

And she is not alone because her unemployed mother has to look after five other children.

The 19 year old classroom block at Kamakonde Primary School
The family live in a mud brick house whose roof leaks when it rains.

At home, her life is a battle of survival and while at school, it is all about endurance.

The only structure which the Grade one, twos, threes and fours use at Kamakonde Primary School is dilapidated and unfit for learners.

But Agness and her fellow pupils have defied the odds.

For close to 20 years, the school has received little attention.
The years have now taken their toll on this lonely structure built in 1998 when the community decided to open their own community school.

The two classrooms are overcrowded and pupils literally sit on the floor because the school lacks desks.

The four grades take turns in sharing the two classrooms every day.

In each class session, there are about 70 pupils being taught by a teacher.

Mary Kasanga (right) in class
And the heat is unbearable and poor ventilation forces pupils to use their books as fans to get some fresh air.

And to make matters worse, the classrooms get flooded when it rains.

When the water takes over, classes are conducted under nearby trees.

“The situation here is bad. When it rains, water flows into these classrooms and we abandon this structure. We conduct lessons under trees. It is pathetic during the rain season,” said Hillary Muyoba, the Headteacher at Kamakonde Primary School.

But despite these problems the pupils are undaunted.

They are aiming high.

“I want to be an account when I finish school because I want to be counting money in a bank. When am an accountant, l help me my mother, my father and my brothers,” said Mary Kasanga, a 10 year old Grade four pupil who was interviewed while seated on a brick.

Another pupil Lweendo Malambo hopes to work in the medical field.

The tree under which pupils learn during floods 
“My ambition is to be a doctor. I will help the sick,” said Lweendo while seated on the floor.

During the 2016 Grade Seven examinations, whose results were announced two weeks ago, Agness surprised everyone, she got 711 marks.

This result made her one of the best pupils to have scored well in the whole of Kitwe District at a time when the Copperbelt Province has scored the least among provinces in the Grade seven results.

“I want to encourage other pupils who may go through the hardships I went through. I encourage them to be strong and pray to God. He will bless them also,” said Agness in an interview at her home.

 Her mother Sara Sipula is with her all the way despite the hurdles she faces everyday to fork a living for the children.

“When I got news that Agness passed her Grade Seven exam with flying colours, I was happy. But a minute later I started crying, thinking about my husband who should have seen her success. My only worry is how I will pay her school fees because am unemployed,” said the 41 year old Mrs Sipula.

The school administration revealed that Agness was not the only pupil to have scored such high marks from the school in the past few years.

Nkana MP Alexander Chiteme handing over shoes to a parent
“Agness has made us proud, she is a pupil who is easy to mentor and has a passion for education. Her 711 marks is a reminder that even pupils from poor communities can make it. Actually we have been having an increasing number of pupils getting over 700 marks in the last five years,” said Mr Muyoba.

But Agness’ achievement has not gone unnoticed.

It has caught the attention of the Member of Parliament for Nkana, the constituency where the slum of Kamakonde belongs.

Nkana MP Alexander Chiteme recently pledged to sponsor all her school fees until she completes her senior secondary school.

“I have been told that one of your pupils Agness Nkomeshya got 711 marks in Grade seven. Sure a child who was sitting on the floor while in class can get such high marks? As a way of motivating her, I will be paying for her school from today onwards until she completes Grade 12,” said Mr Chiteme amid ululations from residents of Kamakonde.

This was during a recent community meeting in the area were the lawmaker also donated 50 pairs of shoes for the boys and the girls at the school.

Some of the pupils had never known what it feels like to wears shoes.

The lawmaker also gave the school footballs and replica jerseys. 

Next week, Agness is expected to join her Grade eight class at Chimwemwe Secondary School within Kitwe.

Pupils seated on the floor during a class at Kamakonde
Back at Kamakonde Primary School, not every pupil wears the navy blue uniform.

This is because their parents cannot afford to buy them uniforms but school management does not turn them away.

In Zambian government schools, pupils cannot be chased from school on account of lacking uniforms or school fees.

The school’s plight also forced government to take over the school last year and construct a new classroom block which also has a staff room.

The new building has two classrooms which are used by Grades five, six and sevens.

Kamakonde Primary School has over 700 pupils with only 10 teachers who take turns in teaching the seven classes.

Despite all these challenges, the learners exceed the community’s expectations in their academic performance.

In the coming years, these determined children from Kamakonde Primary School may become the country’s captain of industries despite their daily struggle to gain an education.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was originally aired as a documentary on TV2's Morning Live program on 26 January 2017 and repeated on TV1's Newsline program on 27 January 2017. The link to the YouTube documentary aired on Morning Live is here: Kamakonde Primary School Documentary

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