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End of June 2014, clear blue sky, I landed in Lusaka. It is my first time in Africa and I plan to stay for one year as a volunteer. I will support VVOB and its local Zambian partner, ZOCS, with monitoring and writing human interest stories. Trying to visualise the impact of the work they have been doing the past couple of years.
I have worked abroad before and it is this previous experience that brought me to Zambia. Three years ago I was a teacher in a women s centre in Asia. I was confronted with poverty, despair, injustice, but at the same time I saw the difference education can make. It gave hope, strength and it empowered the women to start their own businesses and to encourage their children to go to school.
It was then that I got convinced that education is a key factor for change. The project in Zambia is for me a way to be part of this change.


What does it take to be a good teacher? Does one need to be friendly or firm? Do you prepare lessons a day, a week or a year in advance? These are some of the questions 38 students and 5 lecturers are discussing durng a five day workshop in Chibombo, north of Lusaka. Most of the students are already teaching on a voluntary base in a Community School, but none of them received a teacher training. ECSITE is, in cooperation with MESVETEE, trying to empower these teachers and improve the quality of learning in Community Schools.

After attending a teachers training in Belgium, I found that the pedagogical training course resembled in many ways: demo-lessons were prepared and evaluated; teaching methods compared and lesson plans written.

Challenges:182 pupils, 2 teachers

The training course also seems a good place to meet fellow colleagues and ask them for advice. Feinny, one of the students, seizes this opportunity. In this Community Scho there are 182 pupils from grade one to six and only two teachers. The school was closed for one year because of a lack of teachers. He wants to know how he is supposed to prepare daily lesson plans for six grades. The lecturer cleas his throat "hmmm, question" and addresses the class. A lively debate arises. At the end everybody agrees that there is an urgent need for more trained teachers.

Vinia:"I made a mistake"

I am waiting for my daiy portion of Nshima, when somebody taps on my back: "Madam, how are you?" Vinia is forty and mother of six children. The oldest is 21, the youngest 6. Her first husband died of malaria. "Three days and finished." she explains. Now she works for the community together with her second husband. She is the teacher in charge of 400 students and six teachers. She is the only one who is untrained, but she has ten years of experience to compensate.

"You know" she speaks softly while we sit down, "I made a mistake when I was young." Intrigued I look at her. She smiles, as if you can only make one mistake as a young woman. Then she whispers: "I married... I did not finish my education and now I regret. Maybe one day I'll find the money to go to school again and make for my mistake. If God lets me...."

Come to my school!

The course is intensive and the students need to deal with a lot of information in a short time, but they don't complain. They are just happy they can attend the course. They realise the challenges they are facing and are grateful for the support they get.

My first week in Zambia made me realise once again, how we take our education in Belgium for granted and all the opportunities that go with it. I'm hoping in the next year that I can be part of the support that the Community schools need.

On the fifth and last day of the training many of the teachers pushed a note with an address in my hand while they whisperd: "Come and see my school!" I hope I can visit some of them in their own schools. I'm curious to see how they will bring the theory to life.