In 2022 the new Zambian government removed school fees for all grades. While this was a welcome move in reducing the cost for disadvantaged households, the reality is that communities living in poverty still struggle to send children to school. Not only are boarding fees needed but uniform, shoes, socks, exercise books, pens and pencils. As pupils progress through the grades they need maths sets and scientific calculators too, and all of this is beyond the financial means of many rural Zambian families who survive by subsistence farming.
Around a quarter of school children in rural Zambia are orphans and the majority are cared for by their extended families. But these relatives are often struggling to educate their own children and cannot to afford to send an extra child to school. The children who are accepted onto our sponsorship scheme may be orphans or classed as vulnerable. Some have parents who are too ill to work or grow enough crops to be able provide an income as well as food for the family. In other words without your help these kids would not be able to attend a secondary school. Learn how to help here.
With the kind support of individual sponsors we currently support 147 of the most vulnerable children to attain a secondary education. In addition we also provide for 55 students at University or College across Zambia.
Since 2010 we have supported some 500 children through the whole of their schooling. Of the students we have sponsored at secondary school, 73% have then gone on to tertiary education or full time employment. In addition we have worked hard to improve educational opportunities for girls, removing them from potentially harmful situations and supporting them to find a career and improve their literacy and numeracy levels.
When a child is the subject of any form of violence or abuse the effect can have long ranging traumatic effects. The suffering, loss of self-respect and loss of faith in those around them may affect the child for the rest of their life as well as impact all future relationships and education.
Project Luangwa helps girls and boys who are the victims of abuse by securing them a good education, providing advice about the relevant organisations and departments that can help them and offering counselling and encouragement. These children need to know that they are not being judged and that they can turn to someone for help, advice and support.
In 2013 Project Luangwa started a ‘pilot project’ Girls’ Club at Mfuwe Day Secondary School for the girls under our school sponsorship scheme.
After a number of years working with the girls we realised that in order to instigate true change we also needed to ensure that the boys are also part of the conversation. As such we began the first mixed and boys clubs, helping to breakdown harmful gender based stereotypes and cultural taboos.
At club meetings we give students the space to chat, voice their opinions and ask questions. Most meetings are all about increasing self-esteem and confidence. Our activities are varied and include self-empowerment exercises, talking to role models, chatting about our hopes, fears and feelings, looking at post-school possibilities and opportunities such as college or learning new craft and technical skills – but sometimes we just spend time having fun too!
From our initial five clubs we now operate twenty clubs across fifteen schools. We have seen how the girls and boys in our clubs develop increased self-esteem, confidence and a proactive approach to life rather than an attitude of waiting for something to happen to them. They are more comfortable talking about personal issues, reporting abuse and understanding how important it is to support each other. Many tell us how they feel more in control of their lives and are in a better position to make choices about marriage, schools, careers and sex as well as being more empowered to say ‘No’ when propositioned by boys, members of the extended family or adults in authority.
Our clubs have been instrumental in changing attitudes, and we notice a marked difference in improving understanding and respect between genders after only 6 months.
Learning in rural Zambia has always been a challenge. Overcrowded classrooms (with sometimes up to 100 children), demotivated teachers (many of whom are not paid), and a lack of resources from chalk to text books, all contribute to the problem. On top of that, as universities and institutions begin to rely more heavily on online learning, children in disadvantaged areas such as South Luangwa are increasingly left behind.
Technology in underprivileged rural Zambian schools is near none existent. The cost, access to reliable electricity and adequate training are all prohibitive factors. DigiLearn seeks to provide creative technological and training solutions to increase classroom resources, heighten learning through more interactive tools, reduce class sizes, while improving the ratio of teacher to pupil to 30:1, and motivating teachers through training and investment.
DigiLearn utilises digital tablets to teach children creatively. Instead of traditional chalk boards, DigiLearn provides the flexibility for children to learn in or outside the classroom, to hook up to projector screens for large class learning, or to individually work through tasks using their own tablet or laptop. Each tablet is loaded with the entire Zambian curriculum and offers interactive learner content, as well as bespoke lesson plans for teachers, from Mwabu.
The project utilises Teacher Coaches. These trained and qualified teachers have been through our sponsorship scheme (both secondary school and tertiary), volunteered at local schools and in addition have been taught the coaching approach. The coaches rotate through subjects, providing students with group learning, individual teaching, and then oversight when working with the tablets.
The flexibility of the team allows them to work with much smaller groups than is usually possible, and the added interactivity of the tablets, not only offers a more exciting way to learn, it also provides skills in technology and improved English literacy (as they can read and listen at the same time).
Since launching Digilearn in 2022 we have seen a 9% average improvement across all subjects. However in key subjects such as English, Maths and Science, we have seen a 16%-20% improvement. Our hope is to expand into 10 schools by 2026.
Craft Shop and Supporting Artisans
Employment opportunities in South Luangwa are limited, with a huge reliance on local tourism. In addition women are particularly lacking in career opportunities and this further widens the gender gap between sexes.
In order to further promote our work with menstrual hygiene we trained a number of local women (and one man) to make our Ufulu pads. We then developed these sewing skills to train our team to make beautiful hand crafted bags, clothing, placemats and napkins, aprons and much more.
We also work with local artisans to provide a platform for their work and a wider opportunity to sell their goods in South Luangwa and Lusaka.
Our shop and cafe is open between 8am-5pm every day during the season, offering sandwiches, salads and fantastic coffee, cappuccino and espresso as well as other refreshments. It’s a great place to relax after your morning safari.
Stop in and enjoy!
Not only have we helped nearly 20 artisans and craftspeople with a living wage, we have also worked to develop skills and provide more opportunities for local women.
Many girls in rural areas of Zambia have little or no access to disposable sanitary wear. We found that because of this many girls who have reached puberty may miss up to a week of school in every four – that’s 25% of their education – and that can add up to 18 months of lessons between grade 5 and completion of school. This can have obvious consequences regarding success with education and their final exams.
The many tribes throughout Africa have different beliefs; for example some women believe that by burning used pads, they are burning their unborn children and here in South Luangwa there is a widely held belief that your menstrual blood can be used against you in witchcraft.
Early in 2015 we taught several local women to sew and they started producing pads for sale shortly afterwards. Our all-in-one pad design uses 3 to 5 layers of bamboo fleece as an absorbent layer and a layer of PUL fabric (PUL is waterproof but breathable material). These layers of bamboo and PUL are encased in two layers of soft brushed cotton worn next to the skin and an outer layer of bright, fashionable and prettily patterned cotton. The pads are fastened in place with a single plastic KAM popper, and are safe and hygienic.
We also carry out sensitisation visits with communities and our ‘mentors’ are trained to help local girls with any questions or problems they may have.
Learn how you can also help here.
With the support of visitors and donors we were able to provide 5,000 pads to 1,000 girls in 2022 alone. This equates to the saving of up to 40,000 lost school days in one year alone.
Foundation Programme for Young Achievers
University is a demanding experience for any student. Not just academically, but in the large adaption they face in managing their own workload, finances and timetable. In addition for rural teenagers and young adults often visiting a large city for the first time, the experience can be daunting.
Despite providing for their physical and educational needs in the form of bank accounts, laptops, upkeep money and phones, we felt that greater measures were required to provide effective preparation for the experience of university, and sufficient mentorship once they are away.
However, we also recognised that those students who were not destined for a place at University also required additional support to prepare them for life outside school. Be that in employment or further education at technical college, any students who showed a willingness to learn were encouraged to be part of our new Foundation Programme for Young Achievers.
With a wealth of experience from both the team and our extended network of supporters and donors, we felt that this could be rectified by providing a foundation style programme in the year before they attend University or begin employment. This has also had the advantage of allowing us to know our students strengths and weaknesses in greater depth, and developing a closer relationship with them.
The course focuses on three stages. First, developing core skills in literacy, numeracy and computers. Secondly, developing these core skills to a deeper level, including how to organise, plan and budget, as well as how to write essays, reports and emails. Finally we work on career development, helping to prepare students for life in employment through careers advice, interview techniques and how to write applications.
We launched the project in 2022, supporting 12 students in the next stage of their life. Of these 12, 8 are now at University, 2 are at college, 1 is in employment. In future years we hope to double the number of students we support and also assist an additional 50 younger children in developing core skills earlier.
When Project Luangwa began in 2010 there was no secondary school in the area of Mfuwe. In addition the small number of community schools received very little funding and buildings often consisted of mud and thatch.
Project Luangwa has worked hard to rectify these issues, supporting over 25 schools in various ways.
Since 2010 we have helped to build 14 schools in the area, and have also supported many more with crucial programmes including access to clean water, dormitories, and toilet facilities.
Deforestation in South Luangwa is hitting unprecedented levels, with the resultant loss of habitat and environmental impact being severe. In addition we see severe issues for predominantly women who are required to walk vast distances carrying up to 30kg of wood on their heads, every other day.
Our Eco-Stoves are designed to use small twigs, rather than large cut logs, which can be gathered locally around the home. This reduces drudgery, reduces the burden on depleted forests, lowers smoke emissions, and lessons pulmonary illnesses for predominantly women.
An advance team first sensitises and constructs the stove bricks with the community. The follow up team then build the stoves, and the registration team then ensures the stove quality and register and GPS track all of the stoves being made.
Since 2021 we have built 3,194 stoves and planted 1,000 trees.
Each stove seeks to:
∙ Save up to 2 hours per day for the household (25,550 hours total per year)
∙ Reduce 2-4 tonnes of CO2 each year per household
∙ 30% less chance of smoke related illnesses such as bronchitis and asthma
Supporting Youth Football and Netball
Outlets for children and young people are few and far between in an area like South Luangwa. Without positive role models and better opportunities, children often resort to alcohol abuse and we also see a rise in teenage pregnancies and early marriages.
Project Luangwa sponsors the top youth team in Mfuwe, Malambo United, as well as the girl’s football team, the Valley Queens. In addition, with the support of the Start Foundation and their donors, we also help the Mfuwe Mags and Mag Queens, both of which have done incredibly well in local leagues and seen national scouts show interest in their players.
In partnership with the Start Foundation we have supported over 80 young people and 15 coaches, providing positive outlets and role models for a huge number of young children.
Supporting Rural Schools
In addition to all of the school programmes we carry out, there is often a need for additional help in the form of resources and maintenance.
We currently work with over 25 schools to support with providing pens, pencils, chalk, writing paper and maths equipment. We also help with smaller scale building projects such as repairs to toilets and classrooms, and help with feeding three very remote schools in Malama.
In 2022 alone we provided resources to over 25 schools as well as 2.25 tonnes of mealie meal (Zambian food staple), 900 litres of cooking oils and 270 kilos of soya pieces, along with other essentials such as sugar and salt.