Improving Learning Conditions in Zambia’s Meheba Refugee SettlementJun 16, 2020
Victor Samuel and Kenford Shambhala, two teachers from the Meheba refugee settlement in Zambia, were thrilled to receive donations of educational materials and furniture from People in Need (PIN). Samuel is a teacher at Meheba C community school and Shambhala is the head teacher at Meheba B community school. They have had similar experiences as teachers in a refugee settlement, which hosts refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Rwanda, and Burundi.
The Meheba settlement is located in Zambia’s North Western Province, where there are very few schools to provide education to the local community. Many of the existing school buildings are dilapidated structures from the 1970s, are sorely in need of rehabilitation, and lack furniture and adequate educational materials. “We have faced many challenges at the Meheba B community school for years, and we do not receive much support from the outside,” says Shambhala. “From my experience, students learn better when they have all of the necessary educational materials and infrastructure in place.”
Samuel concurs. “Our work becomes even harder if we are unable to meet expectations due to a lack of educational materials.” Despite these hardships, however, both teachers value their profession. “I get so much satisfaction out of being responsible for these children’s’ education,” says Samuel.
Adds Shambhala: “Being a teacher gives me so much joy, as it allows me to help people become self-reliant in the future.”
Supporting schools through donations
To support education in Meheba, PIN, with funding from Club of Friends and Real Gift, is providing four community and primary schools with learning materials and school furniture. Rehabilitation of these schools, including the construction of double VIP (ventilated improved pit latrine) toilets, is planned for June and July of this year.
The donations from PIN are the first that the Meheba C community school has received in the 26 years since it was founded. “PIN is the first organisation to support the school with donations. First they gave us educational materials, such as textbooks, chalk, and board rulers, and then furniture,” says Samuel.
Unlike the Meheba C community school, the Meheba B community school, founded 25 years ago, was lucky enough to receive several donations from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees before PIN’s intervention. Nevertheless, Shambhala and pupils from his school were just as excited to receive donations from PIN. “The pupils were full of happiness when we received the educational materials; they were so excited that they sang a song of appreciation,” he says. “As a teacher, I could feel their joy as they jumped around with gladness.”
Shambhala adds that he hopes his school will receive a computer with a solar panel and battery in the future.
With the donations from PIN, teaching at these community schools will be much easier for teachers and learning will be more engaging for pupils. However, schools in Meheba still need significantly more support. “I would like to encourage PIN to continue with the good work they have been doing in the settlement,” says Shambhala. Samuel agrees: “We hope that PIN will continue with their good work, and we look forward to the upcoming rehabilitation of the schools.”
Education in the face of COVID-19
Samuel and Shambhala both expressed concerns regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the lives of their pupils. They fear that the pandemic will be a setback in the education of their students, and that some may lose interest in school. Nonetheless, it is clear that pupils in Meheba, as in many places around the world, are keen to keep learning. “The students are really missing school and they keep on asking me when schools will reopen,” says Samuel.