Day 4 – First Day at the School

This is the day we’ve been waiting for – to see the school. We arrived at the school at 9:30 am after the 45 minute drive from Chipata and a brief stop at the Masala family farm. (Mr and Mrs Masala Zulu, the matriarch and patriarch, of this special family live just one mile from the school.) We expected that when we arrived we’d meet the Headmaster and perhaps a few of the teachers (since it was Sunday), and then dive right in to setting up the clinic. But this is Africa – and here they are serious about greeting a visitor. Hundreds of students and people were there to not just welcome us, but to put on a celebration for us that lasted most of the morning.

After a tour of the school, everyone gathered for a celebration: the headmaster, the teachers, students, families, tribal leaders from most of the 14 neighboring communities that the school draws from, the Chief’s representative of Dwankhozi village, the PTA board, 3 headmasters from other schools in the area, a representative from the Department of Education, and a journalist from Chipata who was covering the event. Wow. That’s a turnout.

One of the Masala brothers (Mauris), a teacher at the school, was the MC and translator for the program. After several introductions and welcomes, the school choir sang. Amazing. The students also put on a “radio news” program. They presented school achievements, members of staff, sports results, school challenges and future plans, and interviewed Missy about the purpose of our trip. It was wonderful to hear directly from the students. One of the themes that we heard from several who welcomed us, including the Chief’s representative, is their desire to build the first community High School at Dwankhozi. Currently the school goes to Grade 9, and there are no high schools in the area. (A student would have to go away to a boarding school to attend high school, and the families in this community do not have the resources for that.) The program then wrapped up with some traditional dance, and JR was brought up to join in the fun!

We finally got to set up the clinic and education room around 2 pm. It was awesome to see the team at work – the collaboration of thoughts and ideas allowed for a quick set-up and time to work through some potential issues. We used 2 classrooms so that we could run 2 clinics in parallel. Janice worked with the teachers to discuss the lesson plans and set up her class in another building. We finished up around 6:30 pm – the sun had set giving us the perfect opportunity to test out the school’s new solar lights. With these lights the school plans to have evening literacy classes for adults and study groups for the pupils. Amazing what a little light can do.

After a long day, we loaded up the bus for our drive back to Chipata. We were all tired, but filled with such adrenaline and excitement from the day we couldn’t stop talking. Upon our arrival to the hotel we shared a meal together and discussed our most memorable moment of the day.

* Seeing the sheer number of people there
* Realizing how similar the gathering was to a small town community gathering in the US
* Being struck by the formality of the program and their overwhelming graciousness towards us
* Noticing how similar kids are everywhere – in how they love to laugh and play
* Noticing how similar parents are everywhere – in how they want their kids to learn and succeed

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