Early start as we had to go to the harbour for 6.30am start for visit to lakeside schools. In the event we actually left just before 8am despite an assurance that we would not be working on Zambian time!
We were joined by the educational standards officer (representing DEBS), water engineers bringing a refurbished pump, and environmental health officers who wanted to talk to the village communities about cholera and the importance of good sanitation.
We used a small speed boat which managed to hold four 60KG batteries, four solar panels, assorted solar equipment and tools and 8 people. Due to our late departure, we bounced over waves as the wind rises between 8.30 and 11am each day.
Manchamvwa Lakeshore Primary School
After a couple of hours (and rather splashed!) we neared Manchamvwa Lakeshore village. Our captain had to negotiate his way carefully past a sunken forest whose bare branches showed above the water. A large amount of the area we were sailing over becomes fertile fields in the dry season. Many people had taken a chance on planting maize, but the abundant rains this year had left it brown and under a few feet of water.
A group of older pupils helped us carry the equipment a kilometre to the school. Howard revised the process of solar installation with school staff and PTA members, then started connecting things up.
I showed members of staff the laptops we had brought and demonstrated how to use them to access Raspberry Pi with its off-line digital resources (RACHEL). This school has 415 pupils who come in a morning or afternoon session to be taught by the five teachers.
We met the local headmen, PTA and a large group of parents who had assembled to receive advice on keeping cholera away by good sanitation practices. We told them about our project and received a very warm welcome. They expressed thanks for the fact that we had promised to bring solar power to them and had actually done so, unlike other organisations in the past.
Munyama Primary School
Next we took to the boat to return along Lake Kariba to Munyama School. Again pupils carried the equipment and we walked behind through long grass. The vegetation in both these villages is lush and green with bright red birds and dragonflies flying around.
Howard re-capped the process of solar installation and then we stopped for a much-needed lunch of nshima, goat meat and rape leaves. Suitably refreshed, we carried on with the task in hand.
Pupils wanted to sing for us – lovely melodic singing- and say some poetry. One little girl in particular moved me when she said, “We children are all the same. Why should not the rural child have the same opportunities as the urban child?”
This is an inequality we are working to redress to the best of our ability.
The school had been obliged to close because there was no water for handwashing and flushing toilets. The water engineers had brought a pump with them to get things working again. We watched with bated breath as they tested it – thankfully all was well. It is a large pump which needs a generator to power it. We had hoped to provide a solar solution but the number of panels required to power it would be too expensive. We are researching how we might assist either by a smaller solar pump, or possibly by providing a clean storage tank.
Back along the Lake to Siavonga after a busy but rewarding day. Not only had we brought solar power to two remote schools, but our visit had also facilitated the delivery of the pump, and the inspection and training of communities in good sanitation.