Thursday, 8 December 2016

Gaining Important Reading Resources

Improving reading standards continues to be challenging for community schools in Zambia.

Back in 2013 the Zambian Government changed the national curriculum so that the language of instruction within all schools should be a child’s local language up to and including Grade 4, after which, all schooling and exams should continue in English.

Although I see the benefit of children learning to read and write in a language that they speak fluently, this move has caused many complications here, largely due to there being 72 local languages.

Getting resources in the local language has been far from straightforward, to the point where we’ve needed to produce our own reading books to help our students learn the fundamentals of reading. 

Thankfully, that was around the same time we became aware of A-Z learning, which have an online library with thousands of printable books on offer to download. We’ve been working with some local linguists to translate the first few levels, which help students transition from emergent to independent reader.

With the permission of the lovely people at A-Z learning, we have been making dual language versions (Bemba* and English) of their titles which children can then use when first learning to read in Bemba, but can also use the same books again when learning to read in English.

We trialled this is some classes this term and hope to launch some sustainable libraries in our schools in early 2017.

*Bemba is spoken across the Copperbelt where all our partner schools are based.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Helping Dreams Become Reality

When I was about 4 years old I wanted to be a duck when I grew up. I always loved water but hated putting my face under, so the idea of floating on top of water every day, all day seemed like a good fit for me. Though I was young, I still remember the laughter that erupted when I first announced this aspiration at the dinner table. My mum’s smile is etched in my mind. Thankfully I moved on and no one was disappointed when this childhood dream didn’t become a reality!

When we ask the pupils at the schools we work with what they want to be when they grow up, we hear that many of them want to be teachers, nurses, doctors and pilots. It is our desire to see these dreams become a reality for as many as possible. That said, we are aware that we work with primary schools that end in Grade 7. Because of this, for several years now, we’ve been giving bursaries to pupils who either show a particular aptitude for learning or are from a family of greater need and show academic potential.

In January we will be supporting 100 children with these bursaries. Each student will get their secondary school fees paid, plus a little extra to contribute to books and uniform. In addition to reaching the ‘100’ landmark, we're excited because, in January, the first group we started supporting in this way will be entering Grade 12, their final year of schooling. These pupils have flourished despite coming from extremely challenging backgrounds. We are ver proud of the way they are growing up to be mature young men and women, continuing to pursue their dreams.

In the run up to Christmas we’d love for you to consider helping support us with these secondary school scholarships. A year of secondary school costs £75 so we are asking you to consider supporting a child for one term at £25 or £75 for a whole year.

This Christmas, let’s encourage children as they pursue their dreams to achieve.

To support a child for a term of secondary school (£25) click here.

To support a child for a year of secondary school (£75) click here.

You’ll be pleased to hear none of our pupils have never wanted to be ducks… Though we did have one pupil who confidently said he wanted to become a parrot (which we deciphered was actually a pilot!)

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Cranleigh School's Recent Visit To Kawama

We were really impressed when we visited Kawama School due to the progression that has occurred in the last few years.

Whilst we were out there, as well as visiting people in their homes, bartering in the market, doing work experience and many other valuable lessons, we visited a school called Kamatipa.

This school is what Kawama School was like when we first started partnering a few years ago. One room, 60 pupils, all half our age, with one teacher. After setting some work to do on the chalkboard, he would go to another corner of the room to teach another year group. Children would sit and wait to be taught. How different this is from a primary school here in the UK?

School can’t take place if it is raining as the rain is deafening on the metal roof, so children can’t hear what the teacher is saying. There are so many challenges that seem to hinder a vital education.

Kawama School now has four classrooms, a staff room, a tap in their compound, flushing toilets, a church (where Reception are taught), security fencing and most importantly the feeding program which gives the children a meal every day. For some children this may be their only meal of the day. 

This feeding program could not have occurred at all if it wasn’t for all the sponsorships that have taken place by all those connected with Cranleigh School.

Sponsorship is currently £12.50 a month or £150 a year. That is less than some of our possessions; our jackets, shoes, sunglasses and speakers; we could probably take a phone contract that was £12.50 a month cheaper and not even notice! Of course, the reality is we can have those fantastic shoes and provide a child with an education.

We are committed as a school to sponsoring 225 children, but there are about 360 students at Kawama School - the little we give makes a phenomenal difference. Having seen the impact we can make, some of us have committed to sponsor a child. In terms of a return on your money there is probably no better investment out there.

In Zambia we met people who lived a simple life and in some respects they live with contentment and values that we, in our developed world, should perhaps pause to consider what it is that truly brings happiness.

In a world where Malaria, poverty, AIDS and famine cause so much pain and sorrow, we as a team discovered the reality of this anguish. As we saw with a nine-year-old girl; when we interviewed her, she told us that last year she lost both her mother and grandmother to malaria and her father to malnutrition. The trip to Zambia opened our eyes and our hearts to our friends in Kawama.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Esther Longwe

Esther is an incredibly hard working person from the Kawama community in Kitwe. Esther’s husband, who was the breadwinner for the family and worked in the mines, sadly passed away in 2014. This left her widowed and responsible for bringing up their eight children. Her children range in age from her firstborn son aged 29 down to her youngest aged 4. They all live at home with Esther in Kawama except for her eldest daughter who is married.

Esther with her two youngest children and her grandson who all attend Kawama Community School
When Kawama Crafts started up in 2013, Esther was one of the original people to start the sewing and making of the crafts and she really enjoyed learning new skills. She also openly admits that the money that she earned was a lifeline for her and the family as they had very little if any coming in at that point. Along with all the rest of the people who worked there they were very sad when it ceased operating. She was, therefore, excited when Pastor Cephas and Mary asked her if she would like to take on the role of sanitation at Kawama Community School. Esther immediately said yes because it meant that she would be earning a regular wage and also it was the school where her youngest two children plus her grandson attended, so she knew it very well.

Esther chatting this week
The family has now lived in Kawama since 1992. They have seen it grow from an area just 14 years ago that was almost all “bush” with very few houses to the bustling and vibrant community that it is today. To many people Kawama may be seen as one of the “poorer” area but Esther talked passionately about the sense of community that she enjoys with her links to the school, the church and her neighbours. She recalled that when they first came they had to walk to the neighbouring community of Kamatapa to find a shop, but now there are many shops and a small centre selling much of what is needed.

When asked how the school has changed and how she enjoys her job she replied, with a smile, that before the new toilets were built and bore hole was sunk, there were just two pit latrines to take care of and clean. Water to clean the toilets had to be fetched from a tap a distance away by her predecessor, Ivy, (now school administrator). Esther jokes with Ivy that she has 10 toilets to clean now so works a lot more but Ivy always reminds her that there is now water on tap so it is so much easier. Seeing Ether and Ivy joking together is a good example of the strong sense of community seen both at the school and in the area.

Esther’s salary each month is the only income that the family have on a regular basis. Out of it she prioritises the school fees that she has to pay, which is a significant part of her salary. Obviously she also needs to budget for food and clothes, which cannot be easy for her. Her eldest son sometimes brings in some money to help but he has found it hard to get a full time job and manages on odd jobs.

Esther is always seen around the school working hard, with a smile on her face. Esther explained to us just how important her job and her links to the school are to her. She is very appreciative of what Beyond Ourselves has done, not only for herself and her family, but also the community with the education and feeding programme, supplying water and the regular clothes sale, which helps local people to clothe their families. It was a pleasure chatting to Esther and we now feel that we can understand her daily struggles just a little more.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Admin, Marathons And Cake

A random blog but that’s my life!

ADMIN - We have recently returned from our annual administration trip where we interview all the children at 2 of our schools – Janna and Greater Joy – and then input all the new data into laptops so that we have up to date information about each child that we can then send on to their sponsors.

It is a great time to see all the children and teachers again and to be reminded why, in the London office, we do what we do – to fundraise so that these children can have the best opportunities of a good education, an excellent meal every school day, and school uniform. The majority of the children have a good BMI and are loving school. The classrooms themselves look better year on year and the teachers are really enjoying their job. Really encouraging to see, and we truly have our sponsors to thank for their ongoing commitment to Beyond Ourselves as without we, it actually wouldn’t happen. THANK YOU.

As well as interviewing this year, we took the team to a couple of homes and we undertook their household chores just for an hour. We swept and polished their floors, did clothes washing and started preparing lunch. I must confess I was a bit tired by the end of the hour! We always ask the UK team for a highlight of their week. For me this year, it was just the realisation that a Zambian lady’s day comprises those daily chores and maybe making fritters to sell or selling other vegetables within the community. Obviously our lifestyle and pace of life is so much faster over here – some of which we can do nothing about, but it did make me wonder whether I should do an audit of my weekly schedule and see if the pace can be slowed down a bit!

MARATHON – well half actually – a huge WELL DONE and THANK YOU to the 13 people who ran the Royal Parks Half Marathon for Beyond Ourselves on 9th October! They raised over £3000 which is great news and I’m sure they enjoyed every minute of it!

CAKE – This year we have increased our teachers’ salaries so I am pledging to raise £1000 to cover one teacher for the year mainly by making lemon drizzle cakes galore!! I am no Mary Berry but I have a few admirers of my lemon drizzle at Stephen James, so I think I can reach my target with cake! I would love to encourage you to join me in this fundraising challenge. Can you have a coffee morning/cake sale – I am amazed at how much can be raised with a cake sale! Do let us know if you do organise a cake sale as we can send you fliers to publicise your event.

By Karen Hosker

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Waste to Toys Workshop

Did you know that almost 80% of a person’s brain potential
is developed by the age of 4?

This was the main message for the Waste to Toys’ workshop which, as the names suggests, was all about making resources from waste or junk materials.

Singakwenza: a South African company, travelled up to Zambia to spend the
day with us and show us how easy it is to make school resources that are free, educational and sustainable. 

As well as the three Beyond Ourselves schools, ten other local community schools were invited to join us. It was a very empowering morning and we all ended the day with our heads full of new ideas and feeling motivated to get creative.

Every person was given a pair of scissors and a black marker pen and told that these would be the only ‘tools’ we needed.

The number washing line in this picture has been made from packaged cardboard and the pictures taken from free supermarket leaflets.
So clever, simple and free!

Each activity was designed with specific Early Childhood Development goals in mind. So we progressed from making rocket balls – that tested our gross motor skills to writing our initials on the top of fruit packaging with used matchsticks -that helped with our fine motor skills.

Poking holes with a matchstick developed the muscles young
children need for holding a pencil.

With each activity and new creation the emphasis was on developing the skills that children would need for reading, writing and maths later on. 

We couldn’t make everything in one morning and so spent some time looking at resources already prepared such as this ‘shoe tying activity’

Overall the day was a huge success.  Singkwenza shared with our teachers the skills and ideas needed to make their own toys and school resources.  The teachers went back to their schools with easily-replicated sustainable resources and ideas for making many more.
However the best part was the knowledge and understanding of the importance of play for a child’s early development. Play provides rich learning opportunities and leads to children’s success and self-esteem.
During our training we did little writing but learnt a great deal through the making, discussing, playing and problem solving with our peers.

Check out the video on the Singkwenza website to see their training in action.