School in Africa

Schools are actually a pretty common sight in the parts of Africa that we visited. Even deep in a remote forested area, it isn’t unseal to come across a primary school site.

This post will contain pictures of some the different schools that we encountered. (And yes, we are safely home now.)

This is a primary school in Zambia- one of the most ‘basic’ that we encountered. It is in the rural community near the Munali Coffee farm.

Munali Coffee is planning to move the school that is on their farm property to the site of this community school. They have begun excavating to put in a 400m running track — an innovation that we did not see anywhere else in our travels


Bluebell School  – This is actually only part of the property; I taught in a class across the street that looked at this wall. This is very typical of the type of walled compound that most city schools are located within.

View from classroom window at Bluebell School

To use the laptop and projector, I had to tape white chart paper over the rough blackboard


Classroom building at Roystone School.

Teaching teachers at Roystone School. The projector was being used by someone else on our team so it was a flip chart day – mounted on a chair that is sitting atop a student desk.


A large Boys Secondary School in the Copperbelt town of Luanshya


As you can tell from the ceiling here, even though the building is large and impressive compared to other schools, upkeep is an issue


Coaches in Brian’s coaching clinic

The final images are from Grand Maria School in Kampala, Uganda where we spent much time with the Director Cyrus and his wife, Teacher Pauline. They have taken over as owners of the school and have transformed it into a beautiful, colourful place for learning. Many of  their students cannot afford to  pay school fees so they rely on sponsorships from people like us. Click here if you are interested in sponsoring a student! (Or contact me for the very new information on donating through their new Canadian tax-status account).

The newest building a Grandmaria Primary School. I did my teaching to teachers in the room on the far right.

The children were kept a day longer at school so that we could be part of their commencement exercises for the term. This was an incredible experience as we hadn’t expected the children to be at school when we arrived.

Students in year 7 preparing for their school-leaving/final exams.

Many students are picked up everyday in one of three school ‘buses’. These are also the vehicles that transported us during our time in Uganda

The campus is very beautiful and cheery with its colourful paint everywhere. It hardly looks like the same campus from pictures before the ‘paint-lift’.

These are the teachers that I worked with for 2 days. We brought 6 laptops for the school, so along with a few personal laptops, we were able to play some computer classroom games during our session.

These are brand new bathroom facilities…. this type of toilet is called a squattie, and these ones even flush! The teachers’ squattie is currently the only one with a door.

Here Pauline is showing us the water tank. A filter system makes the water in the silver canister safe to drink.

The kitchen. These 3 big built-in cauldrons are brand new and contain the fires that are used to cook for 350 people.

This is the rest of the kitchen!


Adventure  to Livingstone 

On Friday to Sunday we had our official tourist time with a visit to Livingstone, about 400 km south of Lusaka.  This is a world famous tourist site due to the Victoria Falls, one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. It is considered the world's largest waterfall,  although as it is the dry season here,  the falls were several smaller falls instead of one massive wall of water. The falls were discovered by famous African explorer David Livingstone who renamed the falls after the reigning British monarch,  Queen  Victoria.

We left early Friday morning and our first stop was at the Munali Coffee farm where Brian and Harold had been a few times before.  

The farm lost much of its coffee capacity during a drought some years back when its water reservoirs ran dry and It could no longer irrigate. It still produces lovely coffee but has diversified into wheat,  soy,  premium flower and garden seeds for the European market and other crops.  We had a lovely tour with Jesper, the second generation owner – operator (approximately our age) and I was thrilled to finally get to visit this coffee farm that Brian has often talked about.  Because Zambia goes from about April to November without any rain,  the coffee and other crops dry very well and rusty and mold aren't problems.  We enjoyed lunch with Jesper, his mother and their farm foreman and his wife, and then it was on the road again, on schedule to arrive in Livingstone around 7 pm.

Our first mechanical incident was a cracked radiator. We added all the water bottles we had in the van and it was enough to get us to a small town.  We had enough mechanically minded men to solve the problem, because we were blessed to find a store that sold anti freeze and quick drying epoxy. It still was over and hour until we started off again with night approaching.  Fortunately we decided to stop in a town called Choma for supper, about 2 hours from Livingstone,  as it didn't seem we would make out dinner reservation at the guest house where we were staying. About 9 pm, still an hour out of Livingstone, now in full darkness, the van started to make a terrible noise and smell.  With the aid of cell phone flashlights,  the men were able to deduct that this was an engine problem that wasn't repairable on the side of the road.  So,  it was seeming that the 8 of us spending the night in an 8 passenger van along the pitch dark high way was a real possibility. Fortunately,  we had stopped by one of the very few village type settlements that had lights along the highway. We had driven for very long stretches without seeing ANY lights in the country side. The village had no services, but at least it was a location marker.

Even in apparent difficult times, God provides. The guest lodge where we would be staying was one where Harold and Brian had stayed several times before. The Lusaka Athletes in Action staff had suggested that this facility had gone down hill (probably an understatement!) and that we should stay elsewhere.  Harold had decided that we would stay there anyway because he had become friends with ' the captain ' over the years and wanted to see him.  This is where God's planning comes in. We called the captain's guest house to see if they could find some numbers of transportation options, even though this seemed futile as not many businesses are open this late. A while later we got a call that the captain had a bus, and had woken his drivers and they were making the hour long trip to fetch us. While we waited we got to enjoy a most spectacular night sky, and were incredibly relieved that we would not be spending the night on the side of the dark highway. We arrived at the quite sketchy Queen of the Hills guest house, but realized that if we hadn't been booked in here, we would be still oon the side of the road. 

Saturday we visited the magnificent Victoria Falls (still magnificent even though water flow was very low). We had afternoon plans to visit a crocodile park,  but it took over an hour to wire gas money back to Lusaka so that the other Athletes in Action van could drive down to rescue us.  In the end we missed the crocs and headed straight to dinner on the banks of the Zambezi River. Brian, after one of his previous trips, talked about how he dreamed that one day we would get to have dinner on the Zambezi together.  Mission accomplished.  We considered it our 24th wedding celebration. (Although the mood ended as our accommodations were the least romantic place we had ever stayed in!)

Sunday started with a 7:30 pick up for a 3 hour game park safari and rhino walk. We saw over 15 elephants that migrate throughout the southern African countries,  herds of zebra, cape buffalo, and wildebeest. We had a great giraffe encounter as we spent several minutes watching 2 young males fight, essentially wrestling standing up, trying to knock each other over! Very interesting.  And to continue our travel adventure theme, we had to stop and get out of the safari van as it got a flat tire.

Giraffes and more

Today we had a much enjoyed day of leisure at Chaminuka Game Park outside of Lusaka. A local lawyer who we had met at an Executive Ministry Supper last week invited us to have lunch and a tour at the game park. It was nice to be able to arrive at a tourist destination with less than an hour drive,  and we enjoyed a wonderful buffet lunch on the beautiful veranda after we arrived.  Brian’s favorite part off lunch was the 5 local cheeses served with dessert,  including his favourite, gouda.

Locally produce cheese served with dressert

Our tour was scheduled to be 1.5 hours,  but as the day wasn’t busy and our group was so engaging, we spent over 2 hours or with our very knowledgeable and entertaining guide,  Jason.

The predatory animals (lions,  cheetahs,  African lynx,  hyena) were caged, as this is a game park not an actual wildlife preserve. But we did get to bounces around in a safari jeep to see the following animals: giraffe,  zebra, cape buffalo, wildebeest, sebu, elephant, warthogs, ostrich, and close to a dozen varieties of antelope. I’ll post some phone camera pictures now,  but will update later when I have access to the ones taken with a team member’s incredible zoom lens.


Rural Zambia and way beyond

On Monday we spent 13 hours driving! We left Lusaka at 6 am  and drove about 7 hours north to a city in the Copperbelt called Kitwe. Along the toll highway there were some police check points and a few detours to slow us down,  but the highway was nice and it was very interesting to see rural Zambia. In a few places there were huge farms with irrigation growing wheat or barley, but in general,  the bush area was very dry. 

From there we spent the next 7 hours driving through the emerald mining area to the west of Kitwe. The road got narrower and bumpier the deeper we went into the bush.  There were small villages all along the way,  often involved in the illegal creation of charcoal. These villages were what you would imagine in the most stereotypical African image — thatch roof, no electricity,  termite mounds, chickens and goats running around. We bounced around in the van for so long that we were still on the road in the very dark night, with only distant fires burning in the bush as we drove by.  Another reminder that timelines in Africa are often just suggestions!

30 km on this road is a long time

The purpose of this long trip was to visit a potential emerald mine. The mine owner is a long time friend of our team leader,  and has wished for him to come visit for many years.  His mine is still in the development stage, but he did make arrangements to take us on site to the nearby GemCanton mine, where we were able to see a mine in full production.  I was pleasantly surprised at the level of safety and security at the mine.  

Sandlot Soccer Experience

Sunday late afternoon,  we drove across the city to a shanty compound sandlot field where 2 Athletes in Action teams had matches. The field is pure dirt,  with rocks poking out throughout.  There are some lines painted crookedly on the dirt. 

As we arrived,  the perimeter of the pitch was surrounded by hundreds of fans. As this is quite a poor area of the city, us white folk drew much attention from the children.  In fact,  we were pretty much swarmed. They wanted to talk to us, know our names,  marry our children, give us high 5s and fist pumps,  pet the white man’s arm hair…. Wherever we went,  the swarm followed. Some were bold and brash, others floated at the periphery, just watching. 

When a camera came out,  they wanted to be in  the picture and certainly knew how to pose. The pictures below show happy children.  What I really wanted to take a picture of was their feet- some with no shoes,  many with broken or holey shoes.  Their clothing was very,  very worn and much in need of a wash,  but both water and washing soap can be hard to come by for an orphan or shanty child.  

In the end, our Zambian friends had to chase them away in the local language so that we could get in the van.  This was a stark contrast to the well behaved, singing children who greeted us at Grand Maria School in Uganda on our first day in Africa. Our friends told us that many of these sand lot kids wouldn’t be going to school since they couldn’t afford school fees, thus explaining the wilder behavior.  

Poverty up close and personal. 

An opposite Sunday experience

Our Sunday morning  church experience was as opposite as you could imagine to our experience at a church in a shanty town last Sunday in #Kampala.  We attended Bread of Life Church in Lusaka–a church with about 10 000 attendees over 3 services on a Sunday morning.  Apparently,  matching outfits for the choir and ushers is a thing in Africa, not just in a mega church like we were at today,  but also at the church last week which had a dirt floor and no bathroom. 

Big choir, 2 huge screens with a full camera crew. 

Amazing worship.  All of a sudden everyone was waving identical mini flags in the air during a worship song…. turns out everyone was using the head covers on the back of the theatre style seats. I’m having trouble uploading the video…. maybe it will get uploaded eventually. 

Teaching in Zambia

Just like in Uganda, we really ‘hit the ground’ running in Zambia. We arrived Wednesday just after lunch and spent the afternoon visiting the Campus Crusade for Christ offices, which is essentially our ministry home base. We then dropped our van load of luggage at our guest house, and realized that breakfast was not included, so we went to a very modern mall to exchange currency – USD into Zambian Kwacha – and shopped for ‘breakfast groceries’ for our group.

Thursday and Friday our team of 7 was very busy in many different directions. Brian was at the National Sport Center doing a basketball coaching clinic. Our fireman, Jesse, was presenting Emergency Management Training to members of the St. John’s Ambulance. I was at a different school teaching teachers each day, and the other 4 members of our team were presenting a conference to about 55 Pastors and Leaders and a 25 women at a Women’s Conference.

On Thursday, I was at the Chitimuluku Primary and Secondary School where I presented to about 35 teachers. Although this was a big crowd, it was not my best experience in terms of being welcomed. Campus Crusade does have a ministry arm for empowering teachers as community leaders, but this is just being developed. After a while into my lesson, one of the teachers asked if they were getting an ‘allowance’ and ‘certification’ for being there; of course the answer was no, so this explained the cool reception. I could tell them that we were supplying a nice lunch. The same teachers then said, “Well what if you brought chicken and beef and I want fish.” This is where I half joked, “Well, if we were in Canada, I would suggest that if I wasn’t offering anything that met your needs you could find your way out the door.” It turns out that the director (equivalent of a principal/business manager) gave this gentleman a tune up, and later in the day he was a willing participant. I also drew the short straw when it came to using the projectors available to the team because there were so many other projects happening, so I was using a flip chart and whiteboard combination which is certainly less efficient than PowerPoint and a projector. In the end, the group did have some reasonably good learning moments, including some heated, but fun discussion around a historical drawing that I was using to teacher critical thinking/inferencing skills.

On Friday, we were at the RoyStone Primary School, once again in a very disadvantaged part of town. They were expecting about 30 teachers again, but we only had a group of 12, including a few directors from other primary schools. This group, from the very beginning was very welcoming, and happy to be learning. We had a delightful day of learning together, and at the end when we were wrapping up the day, they were expecting me to come back the next day, and were very disappointed when I told them our time together was over. We had many, many pictures taken and everyone wanted to chat afterward.

I have one more day of teaching teachers on Monday. Brian also has his final day of basketball coaching coaches.