Today I went to Kabanana to sign kids up for school. When Leah was here we went to visit 3 families along with Pastor Chirwa’s wife, Fanny.
The children in the homes are orphans living with their mothers or grandmothers. There was a total of 11 kids. These are kids that have been attending the church already.
Fanny went earlier in the week to the children’s homes to prepare a list of what was needed. Which also seemed to turn into a wish list as well.
So before we even started off to the schools to pay the fees, Fanny showed me the list and then went through it and said what seemed to be real needs and then things that the family could provide.
She said that one of the mothers wanted to be given the money so that she could buy the things, because after all they were her children and she should be the one to provide and give it to them.
To be quite honest when I heard that I was a bit put off. We were coming to help, but I was explaining they needed to contribute something as well and we are not just giving random handouts for everything.
And as I mentioned it to James tonight, we were talking about how that is the point, She couldn’t provide for the kids to go to school and so we are helping.
Most likely there was probably the hope that money could just be given to the individuals and then they be the ones to buy what they thought necessary and distribute.
We drove to the first school, where one of the boys already attends but needed help with uniforms, shoes and other school fees. When we got there as we were waiting to go back into the office, we saw him walk up and said hello. He was wearing a uniform and had school shoes. The very items said to be needed. We left to go somewhere else and when we came back and saw him again he had changed out of the uniform shirt into a regular one. (Most likely hoping we did not notice).
We went into the headmasters office to inquire about the fees and realized one of the kids had said they owed fees when in reality there were no fees. To which Fanny told me, “this is why we go to the school to see what is really needed.” We talked about 3 students and took care of what was needed with them and then asked about 2 new pupils. A 8 yr old boy and a 10 yr old boy. Both starting in grade 1.
The man told us that they were not taking any new students. So we let it go and then talked about something else. I came back to the question a few minutes later and his response then was still tentative so I asked further, “what if their siblings attend school here?” “Could you just have room for 2 more?”. He thought about it a few minutes and then started talking about vulnerable children and orphans whose dad died and are not able to go to school. And then he gave a speech about what we would call “deadbeat dads ( in America) that abandon their families, etc…) As he was thinking about it, I was praying, and the Lord gave favor and he said yes they could come now into the school term, but if they can’t catch up they may have to repeat grade 1 next year. (Fair enough) we thanked him and then he mentioned there are 75 kids in one class for grade 1. We went to another room to buy the uniforms. We saw him again before we left. I had wanted him to give us something in writing so that when the moms and kids come to school on Monday they can be assured they really do have a spot in the class. He assured us all they had to do was coming in and mention the name of the church and that was good. He said he had a good memory and if he agreed to it, then it was fine.
Then we drove to another school. A high school. We met one of the boys from a family of 4 who is to be sponsored. His father died years ago and his mom has AIDS and doesn’t seem like she has much longer.
The kids attend church and the Chirwas have been a help to their family. So Nathan came out of his class and showed us around the school to the office to pay the fees. We ended up having to go to 3 offices to actually pay for the fees, which was eventful. As soon as we sat down in the first office we said we were here to pay The school fees for Nathan and his sister. The woman at the desk then launched into an attack on us- (all the while smiling in the pleasant Zambian way) , “Why only 2 students” There are so many needy kids. They come to me and ask for help with their fees. Why won’t you do something to help these other kids!?” Then over the course of the few minutes we were there, she said, “You people…” about 10 times. Fanny was great. She handled it well and said, “you even do the same when you buy mealie. You feed your family first and then look to see what is left for the others outside. We are taking care of the kids in our church first.” Then she explained it was the church helping the kids. And mentioned even Jesus talks about going into Jerusalem first then the outer parts.
The woman thought we were with some organization and was just wanting to give us a hard time. At one point I said, “ I know you see me and see white and think we have an endless supply of money, but we don’t. For now we are helping these 2 kids.” At one point Fanny asked her what church she went to and she said, “We are not talking about me..”
It was quite an unexpected reaction and I just was thinking, “What?!” We just came in to pay school fees. I am sure Nathan might have been a bit embarrassed.
After we left her office we went to another office and then another. We finally arranged payment. The one woman showed us the grades for Nathan and said he was doing well and she thought he would do even better if he was not worried about his school. I will just say it was quite a contrast, to walk around with him at school. He is in grade 12 trying to finish his school. As he led us to the office I looked down at his shoes. They looked about 3 sizes to small and I could see the seam ripping apart in the back and the way his heel was shoved in, he wasn’t walking properly.
But he wanted to go to school. And to go to school he needed school shoes. So he was wearing a pair. I whispered to Fanny as we were walking, “Now he really does need shoes.”
She told me that because his house has no electricity he will sometimes come over to their house to study for school and get help with his studies.
I was so encouraged, to see how motivated he is to finish school and to do it well. He and his brothers do a little bit of piece work when they can to earn a little bit of money.
We then went to the last school for the day. This was a small private school in a rundown house. We walked in to a dark room and the woman got off the couch moved her books over and showed a toddler of the couch. The toddler didn’t really want to be shooed away and so she came over to Fanny and I as we were sitting down on an old sagging couch. A Maid then came out to retrieve the little girl and she let out a big scream and eventually was removed so we could do business.
We asked about one student already enrolled and then started the process to pay for the new student, a little girl 6 years old going into grade 1. The woman was nice, very nonchalant and took our money and told us what the child needed to do. When we came back a little later to pay for her older sisters uniform, she was watching an African reality tv show.
Interesting to think over the 3 different schools we visited and contemplate what type of education the kids will be getting. I know one on one, or even in a small “one-room schoolhouse” type setting some of those kids would most likely learn a whole lot more in a shorter amount of time. But this is what is available to them for right now.
In visiting one of the younger boys in the homes after we talked about school, I was getting ready to leave and he blurted out, “Can you buy me a bike!” I looked at him and just flat out said, “No.” Then I explained we are here helping with school but we are not here to just buy anything. Then I said, I know bikes are fun. I’d like a bike. I have a son your age and he would like a bike but he doesn’t have one.
I later asked Fanny I hope I didn’t sound rude, and she said no it was fine. He needed to know.
I do want to help, but buying every person that wants a bike is not necessarily the best thing to do for them. In God’s Providence we were talking with a pastor in the morning on the drive up to Kabanana and he was telling us how a project from the US just failed because things were just given out free and no value was attached to anything because they didn’t have to pay anything.
So even in this college that has been started, the men pay fees and pay something for the books. When they pay a reduced amount, it becomes worth more to them than just given something free.
I picked up James from the College and then we went to get some lunch and then to the store. I had a list of shoe sizes to buy and notebooks and backpacks.
It was great to be getting the shoes for the kids and supplies they needed. Then I went to another place to get backpacks. I had anticipated buying ones I have seen kids carrying, that look like the mesh bags you buy at Walmart to save the planet and reuse, reduce and recycle. But, Where I went had some nice looking ones for a good price and so I got those.
That was pretty fun. I found a pink and purple one for the little girls and something “cool” for the boys and older kids.
When we got home I had the kids help me put the shoes and notebooks into the right backpacks and put names on them. I was glad they wanted to be helping with the project. One boy is in grade 7 studying for the big exams this year and so he needed some of the same supplies Sarah has gotten over the last few months, so she packed up his bag.
Sometime before Monday we will take them back to the kids so they can be ready for school.