I try and keep this writing space reserved for a more personal conversation, such as writing about our family’s experiences living and working in Zambia. I figure I need a place to share about how we are doing as a family and what we are experiencing beyond just ministry. Since I am the one writing, often the experiences I write about are my experiences, but none the less…
Today I’ve decided to give a more detailed update on the preschool. I was adding these things to our monthly update, but I found I didn’t not have enough room to say all that I wanted to say, so here you are… a lot has been happening at Pure Nard Preschool. Read on.
We made friends at Mungu Basic Primary School
Our lead teacher, Felistus and I, went down to the local primary school to meet the staff. My goal for this was to connect with the school. I want to take great care to be a positive piece of what Zambia is doing to educate its children and to be seen by the local public schools as a partner in education, not a distraction. Plus, I just think it’s a great way to have access to the primary school and see in what ways we can bring positive change to a struggling system. We were met by Mr. Bwalya, the Head of school and several senior staff and the grade one teacher. Our meeting was great. We found common ground and mutual aspirations and all agreed that improvement in the area of education was needed in Mungu. Mr. Bwalya is also a Christian, along with the staff that was with him, and he was thrilled to learn that our little Christian school would be sending “light” into the public school system. It seems we will really enjoy working with Mungu Basic Primary and a partnership would be beneficial to all involved.
We are here for such a time as this…
One of the items Mr. Bwalya brought up was his desire to see our school registered with the Ministry of Education. This was already in our plan, but he would like to take us personally and introduce us to the department. (This is very Zambian… to make introductions on behalf of a friend or respected colleague. It is a means of bestowing credibility.) This is an honor for us and it means we are now “looped in” with the other schools in the area. Mr. Bwalya also invited me to begin attending the Ministry of Education meetings as Head of school. I believe these meetings help shape the direction of education in Zambia. I’ll let you know what I learn.
Here’s the thing that came to mind as we were discussing these things…. Zambia currently has no early childhood program, or kindergarten, for its students in government schools. The country is moving in that direction, and taking steps at developing curriculum and training teachers, but it will likely be a generation before these things are realized for the the general public. We have a preschool. Not just a daycare, but a preschool with learning objectives and standards of teaching… and our school is not a school for “privileged” tuition paying students, it serves the rural poor (those that statistically do not succeed in school at the same rate as city-dwellers with access to resources) … and we are producing results. This, plus our relationship with the primary school gives us credibility to speak to the issue. I am really praying that as all of these pieces fall together we might be able to participate in what Zambia is doing, and help shape what early childhood education might look like as the new programs begin to take root. Wouldn’t that be amazing? You can join me in prayer on that.
Our students shine!
We took our Reception class (kindergarten) down to the primary school to visit the grade one class and to see for themselves what school at Mungu Basic would be like. Mrs. Bwalya (the grade one teacher) sat them down with her grade one class and continued to teach. I like Mrs. Bwalya. She is sharp. She had complete control of her class, which was impressive enough with 40 students, (yes… 40 grade one students!) but she also took the time, and probably her own money, to hand make dozens of posters for her room with the alphabet, numbers, and other teaching. A remarkable move considering the “norm” for classrooms like hers. She had no books in her room, but these kids would continue to read during class because of what they could see on the walls. Good move Teacher Bwalya… I like your style!
The class was working on their vowel sounds and making words with them. Our kids knew all of the vowels. Then she did a lesson on identifying capital letters versus lower case. Our kids could do it. No matter what she asked, our little kindergarteners were among the first to shoot up their hands! And our darling Mwaziona…. Mrs. Bwalya had asked someone to complete a word written on the board by choosing the correct vowel… there goes Mwaziona…. she correctly wrote the entire word on the board. Our students “WOW’d” Mrs. Bwalya. We couldn’t be more proud!
We’re thankful for the grade one teacher
It’s not just that Mrs. Bwalya hangs posters on her walls and has great classroom management. She is excited about teaching and loves her work. She is intentional about keeping the students engaged and learning. This isn’t always the case in Zambian government schools. The horror stories you read about of over-crowded classrooms with no materials and teachers who don’t show, happens here too. We are very thankful to have a grade one teacher who will keep our students moving when they get there. She is excited to see what a difference our school is making in getting these kids ready to learn in grade one!
Our preschool students are now at home on break for 4 weeks.
Whew… a full term! I am thankful for the break, but excited about what next term will bring too. During breaks I find not only rest, but it gives me added time for working on projects and planning for preschool things that get set aside during the regular term. So for me, term breaks are both refreshing and productive.
This isn’t the case for our students.
Many go home to find poor quality food, or not enough food. Nutrition is lacking and their energy wanes. Many also find a lack of resources leads to boredom and the learning stops. We in the States think of playtime at this age as a vital piece to learning, sometimes even more so than academics, but without toys, children’s programming, sports, arts, play parks and other fun things to do, and no adults at home who engage the children, home can often be void of learning and growth. In a nutshell, our students are missing the meals they receive and the fun activities they do at school. We are asking you to keep these kids in your prayers. It ought to be that school breaks are fun and filled with family time. This isn’t the case for many of our kids.
Our school will carry on without me
Right now I am in the U.S., getting Matthew prepared for school. I am visiting church partners, friends, and family while here and I am entirely excited about this. I will be away from the school for a total of 8 weeks. The preschool will open on September 7 and be halfway through term 3 when I return. I am so grateful for a faithful staff who is willing and able to carry on without me. This is my dream… to open the school, train the teachers, and have it be 100% Zambian. Recognizably I may need to be there for a few years to set the academic standard and hopefully inspire the leaders and teachers to maintain this standard, but the goal is for me to NOT be there… Yes, I am trying to work myself out of a job! (and by God’s grace, perhaps we can do it again in a new location in the future) All that to say…I’m leaving the school in good hands, and this is a great opportunity to see how things go in my absence. I’m already looking forward to learning about the results when I return. I will count it all (good or bad) as an opportunity to teach and train. Please pray for our staff. It is a big deal to be left on their own for the 6 weeks of school that I will miss!
- Mungu Basic Primary, for our new relationships there and for the teachers; teaching oversized classes with few materials
- Our teachers and students as they begin term 3 without me.
- Students who have difficult situations at home
- For our school as we begin to engage Ministry of Education and for direction on the ways we can help shape early childhood learning in Zambia
And there is always more to talk about I could go on and on about the preschool and the many great things God is doing there. I could also go on and on about the great things happening at Mungu Community Church, Teen Challenge, and all the sustainability projects that are “in the works”.
It’s is incredibly difficult to remember that we have only been here one year. It is AMAZING to see all that God has done in such a short time.
The good news is that I am in the States for several weeks and would love to come to you, your group, or your church to share more. If you are not in Washington or Colorado, even Skype will be an easy way to share more (much easier than doing the time zone battle!). Stay tuned to ways you can learn more… I’m excited to see everyone!
We are inviting partners to become a part of what God is doing through this ministry in Zambia. Join the fun!
If you would like to support this work by contributing financially to the Taylor’s ministry, please visit TheAntiochPartners and choose “partner support” after competing the form.
If you would like to contribute directly to the preschool, please visit TheAntiochPartners and choose “project support”.