Morning. The chickens are making noise. The family with their four kids are waking up. The parents beat the last dust out of the school uniforms. They make themselves ready and leave the hut. Many families can’t afford a breakfast.
Luckily the mango season started and the pupils can pick them from the trees, because for some of them it will be a long way. It can be up to a 3 hour walk to the bigger village where the school is. The huts are all spread out far and wide, surrounded by nothing but nature.
Sometimes there are paths, but often not. They have to walk through the bush and risk to step on a snake. The next hospital is far away and an ambulance service doesn’t exist.
The children arrive at school. The number of students changes with each day, because of the distance, or when the family needs their help at home. In the class might be between 50 and 70 pupils. The classroom is half that of an usual size. Not enough seats exist, so the majority of the students have to sit on the ground. Body odor is in the air.
Most of them are not officially registered in Zambia, because the state distributes identity papers when the people are 16 years old. If the children are born in a bigger city, or the families are rich, they can apply for them earlier.
It’s hard to believe how the teachers handle the constantly changing crowd of pupils without any identification papers. How do they keep a school system in order? The primary goal is to teach them to read and to write, the English language and to offer a basic education.
The state is facing the challenge to build up a working democracy in a country with 8 official languages and 70 different Bantu dialects. The programs and information are in English. Still, most of the people in rural areas don’t speak it. Slowly a change is happening, with the new generation.
After a long day the kids come home. The mother is cooking Nchima, a kind of polenta, what they like to call: “The five finger food”. With their fingers, they squeeze it into a ball and dip it in a sauce. First the men eat, then the women. Afterwards the stomach is full and it’s time to rest, so they all are sitting in front of the hut.
During the day, the mother has been doing the wash, fetching water from a source, and taking care of the animals. All of this took hours, because there is no technological support. For this reason, everything has to be done by hand.
The father has been working on a farm, and repairing the mud hut. Now they all are observing the red sunset over an endless and sand filled landscape, without any phones or electricity. The night sets in.
It’s possible to see the entire milky way over their heads with thousands of stars. No synthetic light which drowns them out. After a while they go inside and sleep on their mats.
Tomorrow is a new day.