Andy Anderson, our driving force in Zambia

Life on the Zambezi for me started when I was looking for sites for my Sobek Canoe Adventure canoeing experience (SCAL), which was designed to canoe from the Kariba Dam Wall to the confluence of the Zambezi and the Luangwa Rivers. The trick was to locate sites one day canoeing apart down the Zambezi. The very first site I identified and subsequently converted to ownership was at the end of the 22 kilometer Kariba Dam Gorge. The site, as the gorge opens out into wide waters, apart from the magnificent vistas across the river, had a grove of Tamarind trees – ideal for shade when the temperatures reach 44ºC in the October heat; hence the name Tamarind Camp.

Tamarind Camp co-ordinates South 16º 22.119’ East 28º 50.815’ was destined to develop into a chaleted Garden of Eden selfcatering lodge with resident troops of monkeys, baboons and pod of hippo in the river. With Tamarind Camp a paradise site in the Namoomba area, I, (SCAL), automatically connected into the villages that make up the Nanyanga Ward. Particularly Bbakasa and Namoomba.

The identification of SCAL with the Tonga people of the district, created the urge to help and support a very vulnerable part of the Zambezi valley. Susceptible to droughts, floods, poor soils, lack of communication and lack of government support. SCAL needed and wanted to support the community. Should it be Health or Education? Upon visiting the Bbakasa Basic School serving the entire area, I discovered a 1945 built school. It had two classrooms and 160 pupils. Classes were holding 80 kids: forty pupils being taught facing one wall of the classroom and forty facing the other way, with two classes in one classroom!!!

The decision was taken to build two new classrooms. Plans were prepared and, as a result of a party of Young Engineers from Demark visiting Zambia for the Total Eclipse in 2001, wishing to support a community project, we were able to complete a new classroom block which was officially handed over on 25 September 2002. In theory, the overcrowded classroom problem was solved, but in practice, all the new facilities did was to attract more pupils.

A league of its own
Thankfully, ProjectsNow adopted Bbakasa Basic School, with two more classrooms handed over in October of 2009. A library, more toilets for the children, new and renovated teachers housing, have all been added. The school has 11 teachers and 414 pupils as of 01 March 2013.

It is interesting and encouraging that as a result of all the efforts of ProjectsNow, teaching staff queue up to be posted to Bbakasa Basic School. There are excellent teaching facilities with proper desks supplied by ProjectsNow, really good teacher accommodation and an excellent library in the making. This particular facility will place Bbakasa Basic School in a league of its own in the District.
The ProjectsNow intention of turning Bbakasa Basic School into a model for the district, if not the country, has rubbed off on the teaching staff and pupils. BBS achieved the best academic results in the district last year and came first at the District Sports Festival in 2012.

A floating trophy for the top pupil of the year has given the students a simple target to aspire to. There is also encouragement with presentation by ProjectsNow of school satchels, teaching aids such as white boards, and, of course, more and more English books for the Library.
Water, key to a green school
Perhaps the most significant objective is to have a GREEN school. Before ProjectsNow paid for a fence around the school precinct, the cattle and goats wandered through the school area and literally entered the classrooms, all with quite disgusting results. Now the precinct of four or more acres is fenced, the livestock cannot enter and the greening programme is underway with tress sponsored by ProjectsNow.

The key to greening not only the school precinct but the surrounding area is water. The water currently comes from a 30 meter borehole with a hand pump. Although the water is salty, it is nevertheless good enough quality for watering the trees, plants and grass planted in earnest when a regular supply of water can be achieved. The ProjectsNow plan for this is already in hand, with the repair of an existing reservoir, windmill and drainage pipes to irrigate the school precinct throughout the year. In addition, careful rehabilitating of feeder streams into the catchment area will have the affect of purifying the existing water.

Button#ProjectsNow has had the impact of upgrading an overcrowded, run down set of classrooms and teachers housing to a point where there now exists a launching pad for the model school we all aspire to. ProjectsNow has made all the difference. With ProjectsNow involvement, Bbakasa Basic School would have sunk under the weight of poor facilities and understaffed demoralized teachers. Instead, poor facilities cannot be blamed for poor teaching, which is now improving in leaps and bounds, with motivated teaching staff who are now collectively seeking ways to produce top rate students.

With extreme competition to move on from Grade 7 to Secondary School, the key is to get the English reading levels up to the highest level. The hope is that with solar power we can turn the Library into a media centre with audiovisual teaching aids focusing on teaching English.

The Community, the PTA and the teaching staff are all doing their best for Bbakasa Basic School and are fueled and fired up by the ProjectsNow initiatives. It has the makings of a winning team in the future. Watch this space for results. Support for Bbakasa School continues.

Andy Anderson