Thursday, 1 February 2018

Introducing Sheba

At the start of this year we welcomed a new member of staff to the Beyond Ourselves team in Zambia. Sheba Kafwimbi Moyo is a Zambian Headteacher who has been working in Community Schools since she graduated in 2005.

Sheba is taking over as Education Empowerment Co-ordinator from Emily Pearse, who leaves Beyond Ourselves at the end of February after three and a half years in the role.

We asked a few questions of Sheba for this blog in order that we can all get to know her a little better.

Sheba, tell us a bit about how you came to become a teacher.

"I come from a family of teachers. My mother is a teacher of English and Religious studies and my late father was a lecturer at a Bible college for most of my childhood. In a way, they both inspired me to become a teacher.

When I completed Secondary School I received a scholarship to study as a Early Childhood Teacher Trainer at a college in my hometown, and I've never looked back since. Teaching, training and supporting teachers is my passion, and something that I see myself doing for the most of my career."

Tell us a bit about your family/home life.

"My husband, Donald, is a Pastor and also works as an accountant. Together we have three beautiful girls, Rhema, Lusako and Tikondwe who are 6, 4 and 2 respectively. We also live with 3 other girls, an adult and two teenagers whom we look after as part of our extended family.

Our home life revolves around parenting, serving as assistant pastors in our church and work. So as you can imagine, life can get quite busy!"

The Moyo Ladies

Sheba and Donald

Why have you joined Beyond Ourselves?

"I joined Beyond Ourselves because I have a passion for education, more especially literacy in disadvantaged communities. When I came to know of Beyond Ourselves, I discovered that the organisation had a similar passion. I feel that through Beyond Ourselves I have the opportunity to have a greater impact in improving literacy levels in Zambia.

This past week we've conducted literacy training with teachers and representatives from the Ministry of General Education as part of the Jolly Phonics Pilot we've been commissioned to organise. It's been quite an experience meeting the teachers and headteachers and seeing their enthusiasm and willingness to learn how they can be more effective in teaching reading and writing. These are the types of experiences that energise me and that I can look forward to being a part of through Beyond Ourselves."

What do you do for fun?

"I enjoy family outings, going for picnics and family road trips. My hobbies include reading, listening to music, cooking and baking. I am also a singer/songwriter."

By Dan Whitcombe
- Dan and his wife oversee the work of Beyond Ourselves in Zambia and have been living in Ndola since 2013.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Happy 2018!

It seems impossible to start a new year without thinking ahead to what that year will all entail. As I look at our 2018 wall calendar in our office here in Zambia, I see the school terms mapped out and the dates of teams and visitors and am aware of the work and planning that needs to be done, I have a sense of expectation of the various training events that will take place, I already feel the sadness of a colleague and friend who will be moving back to the UK, I anticipate the excitement of another colleague having a baby and so much more…

The first exciting event of the year has already happened for us as a team. We have had a new member of staff join our Zambia team as of the beginning of the month, Sheba Moyo. Sheba will be involved in improving standards at the schools we partner with but will also be facilitating the Jolly Phonics pilot this year. We are excited about what she will bring to our team and to the schools we work with.

As we embark on the Jolly Phonics pilot this year, we feel we are sailing into new territory for us as a team. We are well versed in mentorship and in the teaching of literacy but expanding this to 22 schools is a big project for us. But, we are convinced Jolly Phonics is a fantastic resource and with the right training and mentorship, this resource could impact thousands of children in Zambia. It’s worth venturing into unchartered territory when we consider the potential positive impact of this.

The ongoing mentorship and support we give to the three community schools we partner with, couldn’t be closer to our hearts. Every year the head teachers we work with grow in their roles and we have a sense of anticipation as we look ahead to this coming year as we think about their leadership. They continue to raise the standards in their schools and be leaders in their communities.

We plan on investing time and energy into making some culturally relevant reading resources this year. This is something we’ve chipped away at for a couple of years now but feel like this is the year we will put our heads down to get this done. Together with the Jolly Phonics resources, these reading books could really impact literacy. It is energising to think about this potential.

We have four secondary school teams visiting Zambia this year, two from schools who have never sent a team here before. Between the four teams there will be about 65 young people that will visit us. We look forward to seeing these pupils engage in new experiences and have their eyes opened to new ways of doing things but also have their worldview's challenged.

All that said, this year hasn’t started as we had hoped and planned! There has been an outbreak of cholera in Zambia. The outbreak has mainly been in Lusaka but there have been confirmed cases throughout Zambia, including the cities in which we live and work. The latest numbers are that there have been at least 2700 people infected with cholera. Because of this, all schools (nursery to tertiary) have been ordered by the government to be closed for the month of January and there are also restrictions on public gatherings of people for events such as weddings, funerals and church. With these measures in place, as well as several others, it is everyone’s hope that the outbreak will be contained quickly.

All of the schools we work with are closed for all of January and we had seven days of Jolly Phonics training planned for this month which have needed to be postponed. As a team we are continuing to work with the head teachers this month and are focusing on writing up some school policies as well as doing additional planning for the term ahead. We are also taking a bit of time to homeschool our own children who are also not in school this month!

If you are one to pray, please pray this outbreak is contained quickly so people stay well and so schools can resume in February. Thank you!

Here’s to an exciting and adventurous 2018!

By Melissa Whitcombe

Friday, 1 December 2017

Buy The Book

The teachers at the schools we partner with daily commit themselves to teaching their classes despite facing challenges of limited classroom resources. In 2014 the Zambian government made significant changes to the Zambian Curriculum and over the last few years the government have rolled out a wide range of textbooks to assist in its implementation. Unfortunately, textbooks are expensive for schools to purchase so teachers often only have one or two textbooks per class for up to 45 pupils. This means that children either crowd around textbooks that are available, or the teacher ends up using significant portions of the lesson copying large bodies of the text, including diagrams, onto the chalkboard for children to gain access to the exercise the teacher wants them to complete. 

This Christmas, Beyond Ourselves is running a campaign especially to help schools in Zambia purchase these most valued of resources.

One textbook for just £5.00 (

A set of five textbooks for £25.00 (

This Christmas, would you gift a book to Zambia?

Do it, Buy the Book, Change a Life.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

The Huge Potential of Jolly Phonics

We could be on the cusp of something significant.

In the last 18 months Beyond Ourselves has grown links with Jolly Phonics (a literacy programme based in the UK which has had significant success worldwide). In the past Jolly Phonics has given us some resources to use in the schools we’re working with, but last February the founder, Christopher Jolly, came out to Zambia to explore the potential for how Zambia could benefit from Jolly Phonics.

Long story short, in September 2017 Christopher and myself presented to the Permanent Secretary for General Education, who then commissioned a couple of pilots of Jolly Phonics in 9 schools in Ndola and further 9 in Lusaka. Beyond Ourselves is taking on the role of managing these pilots, making sure they happen and trying to ensure that the pilots are as effective as possible.

Meeting with the Permanent Secretary for Education about the Jolly Phonics Pilot we're overseeing in Zambia

           Chris Jolly explaining how Jolly Phonics could transform literacy levels across Zambia        
If things proceed on schedule (and that’s a big IF, the road to success is often bumpy and potholed here) we could be in for a significant year as we see an impact in the literacy levels of these schools.

Jolly phonics has already travelled this journey in Nigeria where it is now part of the National Curriculum after proving itself in a number of successful pilots. Therefore it feels as though it is not unreasonable to be excited about the potential that we could be involved with raising literacy levels of the nation.

As I said, we could be on the cusp of something significant.

By Dan Whitcombe
Dan and his wife oversee the work of Beyond Ourselves in Zambia and have been living in Ndola since 2013.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Joy At Kawama As The New Classroom Block Is Built

“The building is finally complete!” says teacher Florence (baby class teacher) with a huge smile on her face. Kawama Community School has not had an early years classroom since its inception in 2008.

Both the baby class and reception class used to use the church hall as their classroom and it used to be a lot of work because every morning the teachers had to set it up, put posters and pictures on the wall as well as all their teaching aids. After knocking off, the teachers would remove their teaching aids off the walls. This process was time consuming and every time she set up the posters, teacher Florence always hoped for a more permanent class for the early years classes. This was not good for the teaching aids as their life was reducing at a quicker rate.

Using the church hall as classrooms was hard as sometimes the church building needed to be used for some other church programmes during the week. The babies didn’t have a permanent place to call their own.

With so much delight, teacher Annie (reception class teacher) shares how happy she is with the completion of the new classroom block and she is thankful to all that made it possible for this building to be complete. She adds that the teachers have proudly displayed all the pictures, posters and teaching aids and these aids will no doubt have a longer life span. Now the children have big classes with their own storage area.

Mary (the Head teacher) was filled with so much joy and gratitude for the completion of the early years class. Cephas (the School Director) could not hide his joy as he shared his delight and gratitude on the completion of the early years classroom block. He was thankful to Beyond Ourselves and its partners for making it possible for the completion of the building and making the babies’ dreams become a reality. He also thanked the community for their contribution by supporting the clothing sale that helped raise some money for the building.

Indeed, there is nothing more fulfilling than putting a smile on a little child, it gives hope that the future is not as dark as they may have thought. Thank you to all our partners.

Monday, 6 November 2017

The Admin Team Trip To Zambia

Thoughts from Sue and Nicole who came on our admin trip in October...

"My recent trip to Zambia with the Beyond Ourselves team was an education beyond anything I could have imagined.

Our days were kept very busy visiting the various schools where we interviewed the children and their parents/carers. It was such a pleasure to meet and learn more about the families and their culture. They are so grateful for their education and the opportunities they have been given. The children are full of smiles and very proud in their school uniforms. They’re always ready to have their picture taken!

I found the visits into the local community homes particularly humbling where the adults are imaginative and industrious in their mission to provide for their families. They go about their day with calmness and peace despite the many challenges that they face.

I’d heard a lot over the years about the great work the Beyond Ourselves team do in Zambia and felt extremely privileged to experience it first hand. You guys are amazing. Your dedication and commitment to making a difference in Zambia is something to be very proud of."

- Sue Coates

"The October Admin Team trip was my first time to Ndola, Zambia, and my first time to Africa! It was a pack-full week with new and different experiences I have ever come across. We interviewed students with their families and were graciously welcomed by local Zambians, from various communities, into their homes, both of which put life into perspective and reminded me to be grateful and humble for everything I am blessed with. At the interviews, what quickly became apparent to me was the joy the students felt in attending their respective schools, the dedication and passion the teachers have for their profession, and just how much the schools have helped improve the lives of many vulnerable children and the community as a whole! Overall, the trip was an important learning curve for life-lessons and it made me aware of all the good hard work Beyond Ourselves carries out, always striving to enable the locals to feel powerful and self-sustainable. I am so thankful to have been part of something that is bigger than myself."

- Nicole Thomas

Monday, 23 October 2017

Royal Parks Half Marathon

Another beautiful sunny morning for the Royal Parks Half Marathon which took place on 8th October.

This year we had 10 brilliant runners – 6 from Cranleigh School, 3 from Citi Bank and Ollie from Christ Church Cockfosters – all with the aim of getting round as fast as they could AND raising funds for Beyond Ourselves.

Well done to:

Sam Cooke, Melanie Hill, Amanda Reader, Claire Lock, Annie Seargent, Alex Forsdike, Tim Tilley, Josh Mulley, Alan Oakley & Ollie McGahon.

And a big THANK YOU for raising over £4,000!

Tim, Jerry (supporter this year) and Alan
Sam, Alex, Claire, Amanda, Melanie (Behind) and Annie

Ollie McGahon

If anyone is interested in running the Royal Parks next year, let Karen know.