Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A hole in the road

Wednesday 22nd July

Another week has flashed by since my last post. For most of the time I have been in Chisamba. I didn't go with my laptop – or my dongle – so I have been out of contact.

The electricity problems are affecting the whole country. I must admit that I find it hard to understand the view that the level of water in Lake Kariba is the cause of nationwide problems. Firstly there are other sources of hydro-electric power, but more importantly Lake Kariba is vast. The figures which I gave in an earlier blog are staggering. I have just done some calculations which suggest that, if the turbines could cope with all the water at the average rate it flows over Victoria Falls - 1 million litres per second - the level in the lake would reduce by about 4 ½ metres after 250 days, which I suppose could be significant, especially since low levels in the lake would also affect its initial surface area. I don't know whether the turbines could cope with this amount of water however. - we need an expert!! In Chisamba the electricity went off just after 6 hrs and sometimes didn't return till after 15 hrs. This is having a major effect on everything Watering the crops is difficult because not enough water is being pumped into the storage tanks – where schools have flushing toilets they have to close, if there is no water- again often the tanks have a limited supply. At Kaliyangile the incubator for the village chickens wasn't on long enough to provide chicks. Industry must also be greatly affected.

The journey to Chisamba was a good one, with less waiting than usual. I set of at about 5.40 and arrived just after midday.

Apparently the Acting District Commissioner in Chisamba wanted to meet with me. It seems to be usual for charities and other NGOs effectively to run projects in Africa. Hands around the World is a little different in that we support projects run by local people. Obviously we will share our views and have some influence, but the strategic decisions are left to the local people. However it seems that I was looked on as a decision maker in respect of Kaliyangile. The government was keen to help the project, primarily by providing trainers. It was a very tempting offer and one for the local management committee to consider. The details of the arrangements were a little unclear, though they became clearer as the days went on.

In many ways I am able to have a bit of a rest when I visit Chisamba. There are quite a number of things to check out and discussions to have, but inevitably there are times when local staff need to attend to their business and I have a chance to reflect. The site is quiet and full of bird life.

I had intended just staying for a couple of nights and returning on Saturday, but the District Commissioner persuaded me to extend my visit until Monday to enable me to visit a school and training centre which he regarded as models of such establishments where the government was involved.

Kaliyangile is trying to run itself using the profits from various on site activities such as gardening, poultry rearing, bee-keeping and pig farming. Training for bee-keeping has now commenced and working with the Forestry Department looks to be developing into a good partnership.

I ate out most nights – not having cooking facilities myself. Davidson accompanied me to the Better Place for nshima and relish. Relish being anything not nshima!! So I had fish, chicken and sausage on successive nights – there is also a “soup” which comprises some vegetables and cooked tomatoes. After supper we adjourned to a local bar with a pool table. I enjoyed a few games and managed to play Davidson now and them. The general rule is that the winner stays at the table and plays the next challenger. However, when I was ready to go someone would inevitably want to play me and it was difficult to get away at a reasonable hour. On one occasion it was 23 hrs before we left.

I met the management committee on Saturday and brought them up to date with the DC's offer as well as discussing other business. It was a very positive meeting where the local committee seemed determined to make the centre work well.

They have introduced an English mass at Chisamba so I arrived before 6 hrs ready and eager! There was no activity but at about 6.15 some ladies arrived and told me mass was at 6.30. I wouldn't have minded another few minutes in bed!! This was the first service that I have attended this year in English and it was good to be able to understand what was being said.

After mass I visited a plot of land where Davidson is building himself a house. He has constructed two rooms and is acquiring bricks which he will 'burn' and use to make additional rooms. He has a small pigsty and a few ducks to help with the family finances.

Most of the rest of Sunday, and a part of Saturday, I relaxed watching the birds. A group of young children joined me and we entertained each other with a few games.

On Monday I went to Kabwe with Persis where we met the education officer. No prior arrangements had been made but we were able to visit the two establishments identified.

Kabwe Skills was a training centre established and run by the government. It ran a wide range of courses from tailoring to car mechanics and catering, and a few more beside. They seemed to be quite successful in what they did. They charged significant course fees, unlike Kaliyangile where the courses are free. It is also a much bigger operation and doesn't provide agricultural training.

Shitima School was set up by an order of Catholic brothers to provide education for the poorest in the area. Being under the Catholic Church they are able to seek Grant Maintained status – which was given to them as a Basic School (grades 1 – 9). They have now extended the school to provide education to grade 12 – the final year of secondary school and are seeking similar status as a primary and secondary school. This status enables them to have government teachers but still maintain control over the policy of the school. In particular they still select the children from the poorest sectors and charge no fees. They are supported by a small UK charity which has provided the infrastructure and other funding.

The school is very impressive. The current head has started getting the children involved with rearing chickens and growing vegetables to give them extra skills and to raise some income. The extent of the gardening is significant. The provision of teachers is a big benefit and the special status afforded to the church enables the school to continue to work in the way establishes by the founders.

I left for Lusaka at about 13.30 on a big bus – unusually without any delay. However the congestion as we entered Lusaka meant we didn't arrive at the bus station until 16 hrs. Shalom and Mazundu provide buses that run to a schedule, but unfortunately both were full until 19 hrs. I was offered a bus going “now now” but turned it down believing that “now now” was after 19 hrs!! Instead I walked through town and found a Rosa almost full. By 17.10 we were on the road and I was in Monze by 21hrs. I accepted a taxi and picked up some chicken and chips from Tooters on the way home. Deana had warned of a hole in front of our house with no warnings and suggested the back road. The driver dropped me the other side of a large mound of earth that apparently had been dug up that afternoon.

Once inside Deana informed me that water last came out of the taps a couple of days ago. So we started to plan for a prolonged period without water. The electricity load shedding had also changed with a couple of periods during the day without power – but usually power was provided in the morning and evening.

Tuesday was an opportunity to start catching up on the computer work missed when in Chisamba. The 2hrs plus battery life on my laptop meant that I could use it for most of the day – unfortunately I couldn't access the internet. It later transpired that I had no data credit left in the dongle – though the indications had been otherwise.

Water was now plentiful – unfortunately it still didn't find itself in the taps but rather had filled the large hole dug the previous afternoon!! Still it was progress in that we had plenty of 'Grey water' - or rather dirty brown water - for flushing the toilet.

Diven, Jennipher and Raymond popped around during the afternoon and early evening.

This morning I had arranged to meet Mrs. Sianga. But when I awoke I was aware of water in the taps outside!! The immediate crisis was over! It was a delight to have an early morning cold shower!!

Mawini had come to see me at PIZZ School. I didn't recognise her at first – she has grown into a an elegant lady and has thinned a bit. She has now completed her first year at Zambia University in Lusaka, having started her education at PIZZ school. Her brother suffers from a number of disabilities as a result of cerebral malaria. This makes it very difficult for her mother to work to support the family. They are all very proud of their daughters achievements and look forward to the time when she will be a qualified doctor. She is determined to do well and works hard as evidenced by exceptionally good marks in her examinations.

I talked to Mrs. Sianga about many aspects of the school. I was particularly touched when she talked of the value of feeding the children. She said that it was important to make sure they had the food on the premises, because otherwise it might just go to others in the family. She told me that she didn't mind when some children only ate half of what they were given in order to feed their hungry brothers and sisters at home – at least they were eating something! It stories like these that bring home to me the poverty in which these children live.

After lunch I had a couple of things to sort out on the computer before heading for town. It was after 16 hrs when I left and I expected to miss the post office and fail in the most critical tasks. However, I must have been looked after because everything fell into place, I had my parcel wrapped and with a couple of minutes to spare presented it at the post office. It was a few minutes after 5 pm, within a post office with closed doors, when I finally had deposited my parcel. For some reason the guy behind the counter was very pleased to meet this Mr. Christopher Barrell – I wonder why? I also managed to sort out one or two other tasks.

I returned via the market, called briefly on Diven to postpone our trip to Tooters and played the Pied Piper up the road! I knocked up a quick meal and got busy for the evening. As usual its now time I was asleep.


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