Kabula is a small town in the bush about 40 minutes’ drive from the main road. The small mud-brick school in Kabula has only two classrooms, and its thatched roof is caving in. A new school building is under construction, but it is only half-completed, and funds from the government have run out. Other than the school, there are just a few huts scattered across a hot, sandy expanse. Even my colleague Mooto, who is from a larger town a few hours away, was surprised by the poverty of Kabula.
The four teachers at the school are piloting an evening study hall on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. For now, only 6th and 7th grade students are allowed, because there are only five lights available. Last week the study hall had nearly full attendance from both grades: about 30 students.
These students do not have their own textbooks. The school only has one science textbook for 4th grade, so the teacher reads aloud to the class. Because there are so few teachers, grades 1 through 4 are only in school for three hours each day. Grades 5 through 7 get four hours. Even with these challenges, all of the 7th grade students last year passed the national examination.
The past two nights have been surprisingly cold — below freezing – and this weather has devastated the school’s vegetable garden. The teachers were planning to sell tomatoes to Sioma High to make a little money for the school, but now they will have to wait until next year.
I talked for a while with Kabula’s Induna, the chief of the village. His name is Society Mayalo, and he was born in 1925. He told me that Kabula needs a new borehole, a deep well with a pump for water. Now the entire village and some outlying settlements — 700 people and their cattle — all use the same borehole. Mr. Mayalo also introduced me to his youngest sons: twins, Owen and David, who are 23. Owen has just graduated from Sioma Secondary, and David is in 12th grade, his final year. If Owen can re-take exams in a few subjects, pass, and get a scholarship, he could go on to university in Lusaka.
While we talked with teachers and community leaders, several people approached us and asked for a ride to the main road, which is otherwise a three-hour walk. When we finally departed in our Mitsu Pajero 4×4, we had nine people crammed inside: four students going to Sankandi, one high school student traveling to Sioma Secondary, an elderly couple carrying heavy bags, Mooto, and me, trying not to get stuck in the deep Kalahari sand. We will return to Kabula soon to try to figure out how we might help.