I have been visiting Mfuwe for the last six years. In 2008 I packed my bags and left London to work for Robin Pope Safaris. I spent two years working in the safari lodges and have been visiting every year since then. When they say Africa gets into your blood, I can safely say it is in mine! Especially Zambia.
After returning home to the UK in 2009 I decided that teaching was my next step. So, after completing my teaching training last year and successfully surviving my first year in the classroom, I decided it was time to return to my beloved Mfuwe, but this time to spend time at school rather than admiring the beautiful wild life of the South Luangwa. And that is how I ended up spending the most wonderful 4 weeks volunteering at Katapila Community School.
As soon as I arrived at Katapila, I immediately felt at home. Irene, the head teacher, welcomed me with open arms and I was greeted by many of the pupils, who rather than disappearing off home at the end of their school day, were very helpful in unloading my ‘katundu’. Any apprehension I had before I arrived disappeared and my instinct told me I was going to have a memorable experience, and I certainly did…
A snap shot of my time at Katapila….
Before heading to school I had chosen a selection of books and story sacks from the Project Luangwa library. Each morning I worked with small groups of children from Grade 6. We would read a book together and then spend time looking at the words and vocabulary to ensure a good understanding. We played lots of games, and had much fun with the giraffe puppets and masks. I also worked closely with Irene to plan and carry out some focused English sessions to help the children revise for their end of term exams.
The afternoons were spent with Grade 3 revising their sounds to help them with the correct pronunciation when reading and interpreting words. One Friday afternoon, I stepped into cover one of the volunteer teachers and very much enjoyed teaching the whole class of Grade 3 at once. While this was slightly more challenging due to their lower level of English, I soon realised how much the children want to learn and how hard working the children are once you set them work to do. Not a sound came from any of them as I set them a challenge of addition and subtraction using dice. I could not stop them working when it came to knocking off at the end of the day! Not something I am too used to experiencing in my classroom back home!
Teaching aside, having the opportunity to experience rural village life was fantastic. Living with Irene, her sister Bwalya and her three nephews, Joseph, Moses and Emma 2 (I was Emma 1!) was what made the experience all the more special. They welcomed me into their family and we shared many laughs.
I slipped into remote rural living like a duck to water, enjoying my bucket shower, and certainly not starving as endless gourmet breakfast, lunches and dinners of nshima, rice and accompanying local relishes. Not forgetting the treats of homemade doughnut – delicious! I tried and failed miserably on cooking nshima; one skill I must practice the next time I visit!
Most evenings, while the boys played football, Irene and I would play netball with the girls. I am a keen netballer back home so I loved having the opportunity to run around for an hour each evening. The girls all enjoyed having the tall ‘mzungu’ on their team as they soon realized I could pop the ball through the hoop quite accurately! One instant they all loved was when I fell flat on my face, so I was no longer quite so clean and ‘mzungu’ as I stood up and was covered from head to toe in dust!
Other exciting events during my stay with Irene included a clothing drop by Project Luangwa, and then the wonderful end of term party, all organized by Karen. I also had the opportunity to visit the local villages near by to Katapila and Kawaza and attend the Sunday church service.
Towards the end of my stay, I was lucky enough to have a visitor to my room, in the form of a mouse! We became the best of friends and I was very happy for him to share my room until he decided that my bed was rather comfortable than scurrying around on the floor! All I can say is that, after a battle late at night, the victory stood with Bwalya (Irene’s sister) and her stick! Bwalya 1 - Mouse 0!
It was a pleasure to work with children who were all so keen to learn, they never failed to have a smile on their face and would always greet you with a cheerful ‘bwanji’. I have made so many new friends who I will remember for ever and look forward to visiting them all again soon.
‘Zikomo kwambili’ to Project Luangwa, Irene and all the children at Katapila for welcoming me into your home and school. I had a wonderful time.