A Day of Firsts
We recently took five young men, who graduated from grade 12 in December, to visit a very good private Christian K-12 school about five hours from here. We had met the headmaster of the school in the first few days of our being in Zambia. Then, while in Lusaka last December, Pete met a couple of the teachers. All of these people invited us to stop by the school some time, so in February, we took advantage of that invitation. We had a tour of the school; I (Trish) was able to sit in on some of the classes. We met several people in administration, including the man responsible for career counseling. Boniface has been at the school for about ten years, and knows all the ins and outs of preparing for and applying to colleges and universities, both in Zambia and internationally. Knowing that we had these five grade 12 graduates back in the village, we asked if he would be willing to meet with them. We were delighted when he said he would. Students in these rural area are offered no assistance whatever in planning for their future beyond grade 12. The only opportunities they really know about are what is available in Mansa, or the University of Zambia in Lusaka. I could give more opinion about this situation, but that’s not the purpose of this writing, and besides, it frustrates me too much!
So anyway, we headed out at about 05 hours, hoping to be at the school by 11:00 or so. It was a trip that I will not soon forget. While I knew that none of these guys had been any further than about 90 km from the village, I’d forgotten that fact until we began to get close to the swamp, about 2 ½ hours from home. Outside the car there was more and more water; inside the car there was more and more excitement. These guys chattered away; they’d never seen this much water that wasn’t a flood, and the vegetation was totally different from what they were used to. Well, then we crossed the bridge that spans the Luapula River. Never been on a bridge that long before (longest bridge in Africa!). Certainly not one with water under it.
Then there were the people on the side of the road selling fish. That was new. Emilio made the comment, “I think life here is very difficult.” Now bear in mind that life for them in the village is pretty difficult itself. But I was glad to hear him say that because we’d just been talking a few days prior about how, despite the little that they have, there are many people in the world who have even less.
So the distance, the swamp, the bridge, the fish sellers. Then we went under a bridge. All talking ceased. The guys were astounded as they watched it get closer, closer, closer. They craned their necks, trying to see out the windows as we passed under. The only time I think about passing under a bridge is when it is raining hard and for just a second I get some relief!
We reached the school just before eleven. It’s a beautiful campus, larger than any they’d ever seen. Beautiful green grass, landscaping, tennis courts, swimming pool, well-built classrooms and dormitories. There were exclamations of “This is what I’ve been looking for.” and “I don’t ever want to leave here.” They were impressed. But more importantly, they had the opportunity to meet with a professional, someone who could guide them as they look toward their future. The guys spent that afternoon and the following morning with Mr. Boniface. They left informed and encouraged, and with a different perspective on what is available to them. I was so pleased.
We stayed at a lodge about 15 km down the road from the school. Another first. Most American kids by the time they are 20 have stayed many times in hotels, time shares, cabins, or what have you. These guys have almost certainly never shared a room with only one or two other people! They were probably lonely, although I didn’t think to ask at the time! For all I know, they all ended up in the same room.
We ate dinner at the lodge, with knife, fork, and spoon. We were the only ones in the dining room, so the boys asked for instruction on how to use a fork and knife. A couple of them only knew forks as “something dangerous you put in your mouth.” Since their desire is to go to the city for schooling, they want to be able to eat like other people, realizing that many people in the world do not eat with their hands as they do. We taught them the American way of using knife and fork, as well as the British way. There was a lot of laughter as food refused to stay on the fork or the navigation of the fork from the plate to the mouth was found to be tricky. It’s difficult for us adults to imagine having difficulty eating with utensils; trust me, it’s easier to learn to eat with your hands, and even do it properly.
Our time at Chengelo School was a huge success. The guys came away loaded with information about what is available to them. And they were exposed to new things, as simple as they may seem to us, that broadened their perspectives and their imaginations. I feel privileged that God would allow me to be a part of this. Please pray for Timothy, Percy, Emilio, Wilson, and Tresford, that they will find the right paths to take forward.