A Community School in Rural Zambia

A Zambian Community School

This post is part of the Multicultural Kid Blogs “Schools Around the World” blogging carnival hosted by The Educators’ Spin On It. Since I recently visited one of the closest schools to our current home, I thought I would write about this Zambian community school. What I am sharing here is what I heard from the headmaster of this particular school and may or may not be indicative of other community schools in Zambia.

Community School Zambia - Mud Hut Mama

We live in a forest reserve in rural Zambia that does not have any communities nearby. This community school is about an hour drive from our home. It serves 169 students in grades 1 to 7 with four volunteer teachers. There are no teacher salaries but some students will pay what they are able or will pay in kind with chickens and maize. Lessons are taught in Nyanja and English but there are over 70 languages spoken in Zambia. About three quarters of the students start school speaking and understanding Nyanja, the rest have to learn Nyanja at school, very few children start school understanding and/or speaking English. Students walk up to 8 km (5 miles) to get to school.

Community School Classroom - Mud Hut Mama

The school has three classrooms, many broken windows, one broken door and one door that has warped so badly that it is difficult to open and close. The blackboard is made out of cement that was at one point painted with blackboard paint. It has chipped over time and has become very difficult to write on. It needs to be replastered, polished and repainted to be of any use.

School Resources - Mud Hut Mama

These are all the books the school has. The two piles in front with purple covers are music books. There are no musical instruments and there is no music teacher at this school. I didn’t go through all of the books but the tallest pile of books in the back left are workbooks that will be difficult to share between students or to reuse once they have been written in.

School Water Pump - Mud Hut Mama

This is the water pump that services the school. It has been broken for two months and while it is out of commission students and teachers are getting their water from a nearby stream.

School Pit Latrines - Mud Hut Mama

These are the pit latrines for the school. I visited during school holidays, the long grass will be slashed by the students when school opens again and the school ground will be cleared and cleaned.

Community schools are exactly what they sound like, schools that are formed and supported by local communities, often because government schools are too far for students to travel to. Some community schools receive funding and support from local or international NGOs and the Ministry of Education. Some receive nothing but the support they get from their communities.

Despite the lack of resources there are local people who are advocating for these schools and their students and who are doing the very best they can with what little they have.

Be sure to come back on September 19th for the link to the rest of the Schools Around the World posts or click over to Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes now for a look at schools in Puerto Rico.

Updated: Check out the other Schools Around the World posts at the Educator’s Spin On It!


About Jody Tilbury

19 Responses to “A Community School in Rural Zambia”

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  1. Heather says:

    Yip, looks like Africa to me. We are so blessed and fortunate to pick and choose our schooling.

  2. I am so glad that there are people dedicated to making schooling work in such challenging conditions! We take so much for granted in the United States.

  3. I agree with Maryanne. It is easy to forget just how fortunate we are here in the States and other first world countries. Thank you for posting this.

  4. Roger Avon says:

    Looks similar to many rural community schools but the article does not give the location although it must be in Eastern Province if lessons are in chinyanja. We built a similar community school + borehole at Chatama Village (Muchule School) and handed over to the local community to manage as it was too rural to manage from a distance & therein often lies the problem.

  5. Frances says:

    Wow! It’s truly commendable the tasks that the volunteers have upon them with the limited resources that we have. As previous comment, we are blessed and fortunate to be able to pick and choose our schools. Thank you for sharing this post for the series Schools Around the World.

  6. sara says:

    while out shopping during back-to-school time, i overheard a young boy insist (quite nastily) to his mother that two new pair of shoes just wasn’t enough to start the year. i felt bad for his priorities then, and now i do even more so.

    cool series. can’t wait to check out the others. thanks for sharing!

    • Jody Tilbury says:

      Thank you for your comment Sara – I’m hoping that exposing my girls to the challenges many of our neighbors face will help them keep perspective when it comes differentiating needs and wants.

  7. Lisa Nelson says:

    Wow, eye opening certainly. It’s so good that they do the very best they can. Those teachers are truly dedicated to the students – i must imagine. I couldn’t imagine working under such conditions. This post is truly about the love of learning.

    We in the US make our kids go to school – generally. They grumble, they play sick, they don’t do the homework, they talk badly about their teachers, they don’t work hard. But these students that you talk about here – go out of their way to get an education – under less than ideal circumstances. I don’t find this post to be sad at all. I find it to be hopeful. I would like to follow these kids and see where they end up in 2 years 5 years, 10 years and beyond. I bet they magnify their callings – and are world standards of excellence.

    Thanks so much for sharing this post. An hour drive one way is no small thing, Jody. I do appreciate your dedication to the spreading of education and love in the blogging community!

    • Jody Tilbury says:

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment Lisa. Going to school is definitely considered a privilege and not an entitlement here – unfortunately only a very small percentage of students manage to reach their full potential.

    • Jody Tilbury says:

      I love your idea of following students – I wonder if any of the organizations that support community schools do that.

  8. Becky says:

    Thank you so much for sharing! I love getting a glimpse of schools in other countries to see how different they are (and yet at the same time how their goals of educating their students are the same). I loved the comment above from Lisa- great idea to follow some of the students to see where they are in a couple of years, then 10 years and beyond.

  9. This was so interesting to see. I feel like I remember Better World Books being involved in donating books to schools in Africa?

  10. Although we live in urban North Africa there are many schools similar to this in more rural areas. We have been amazed to see how our children’s perspective on school. and the lives of other children has drastically changed. Attending school here is a big expense, especially for people who are making the average local wage, but by in large parents make the sacrifices to make it possible. It would be great for some more government support to trickle down to these rural areas to provide some of the very basic needs (chalkboard..etc)

  11. Thanks for giving us this glimpse into the local schools. We really do take what we have here in the US for granted.

  12. TQ says:

    Hello MHM! It was great to stumble upon your Pintrest page and now your blog site! How exciting, adventurous and brave your family life seems to me. Keep up the amazing work with your girls and support to your husband!

    Now I’m most interested in seeing if there is a way I can help this Zambian or any Zambian rural community school with some supplies. Feel free to check out my grass roots effort through my small organization here in the states. I don’t have big bucks to support but my mission and heart would love to add a Zambian school to my list of schools I support yearly with teaching and learning supplies.

    I can write to you more or tell you more about it with interest. Is there a trusted school official you can give my information to or me the contact information of so I can arrange for support. Currently the only other international school we support is in The Gambia!

    Telisha Q.

    Thank you in Advance and please know I’ll be using your lesson plans with my young one and my 2-3 year old students in my small preschool!!!

    • Jody Tilbury says:

      Thank you for your lovely message. We are no longer living near this particular school but I’ll send out a few emails and see if I can find a good contact for you.


  1. […] schools in rural areas are typically understaffed and under resourced. You can take a look at one rural community school […]