When I was in Zambia in January, one of the villages we visited was Kalasa Mukoso. The churches there have been working with Bright Hope Zambia for over four years now, and the Christian Farmers Association is well established. The feed mill that was installed in 2022 is saving local farmers 30% in feed cost, while generating employment and creating a market for locally grown grains. Poultry and pig loans have also resulted in growing income in the community.
High School Students at Risk
One of the village’s major resources is the regional high school located there, with students coming from as far away as 100 kms in order to study. Obviously, it is impractical to make that kind of commute on a daily basis, so families try to make arrangements for students to stay in Kalasa Mukoso during the school year. This puts some children, especially girls, at risk of neglect or exploitation, resulting in many not completing their education. Teenage pregnancies are particularly challenging.
The school has done what it can to address the problem, but since it is registered as a day school, and not a boarding school, its options and resources are limited. Two years ago, the school converted a small staff residence into a girls’ dormitory, and when that proved inadequate to the need, the school also made one of the classrooms available. With no furniture in either building, the girls sleep side by side on the floor, hanging their belongings from the rafters. Currently, 32 girls are staying in the small staff house, and sometimes even more than that are housed in the empty classroom. While this is safer than long walks to and from school, or some of the housing they might find in the village, it is not conducive to learning and wellbeing.
Girls' Dormitory Project
When Bright Hope Zambia asked community leadership what their top priorities were, safe and healthy housing for female students was at the top of the list. In response, we provided funding for a specially designed dormitory to house 40 girls, with a maximum capacity of 60. It consists of two wings to accommodate different age groups, with each wing having its own bathroom. There will be a total of 10 bedrooms, each with individual storage and study space for up to 6 girls. The shared common area will be a great place for the girls to relaxe together and build community, while reliable electricity, lighting, and indoor plumbing will significantly improve their health and safety conditions.
Construction on the dormitory started in June, and has made excellent progress. Last week the flooring slabs were ready to be poured. If all goes well, the dormitory should be ready for girls to move in by January 2024 . This also means the school will be able to apply for boarding school status, which will result in more resourcing from the government. Most important, though, is that these young women will be much more likely to complete their high school education when they have a healthier and safer environment in which to learn.