Saturday, 26 January 2013

A Visitor from Zambia

Wiseman Banda is the head teacher and the founder of a charity school called the Jack CECUP school in Zambia. His school has links with a school in East Barnet and you can view their website here.

You don't see a lot of snow in Lusaka. It is dead flat and close to the equator.

After never seeing snow before in his life, Wiseman Banda spent 24 hours trapped by a blizzard in Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport while his temporary visa ran out.

 When he arrived at Paxton Pits Nature Reserve  on Tuesday, it was far too cold for a walk around the Reserve, so we drank tea with the Voluntary Wardens in the Visitor Centre and joined Ranger Paul Claydon and midweek volunteers Richard Storey and Harriet Baber for a chat and a group photo.

I couldn't let Wiseman get away without a very short walk in the snow, so we shuffled our way over to the Environmental Education Centre to see what's new there. The Education Officer for the Wildlife Trust there is Debbie McKenzie who had put together a fascinating display which was designed to show teachers the programmes on offer in 2013.

We "struck gold" because the building was open and set up to showcase our schools programmes for our Teachers Week which has now been extended into next week due to snow. It was manned by Judith Hurley who is a supply teacher with the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire 

Judith had the wood-stove stoked up, a pot of tea on the go and two kinds of home made cake on offer.

It was a delight for me (as an ex-teacher myself) to see Wiseman and Judith, both full of passion and enthuisam, sharing stories about the changes they have seen in schools over the years.

I remarked that, when I worked in Tanzania, the schools were open for two shifts a day and the teachers were exhausted. Wiseman replied, "Actually, we run three shifts a day. Young Children first, then older children, then adults".

So what brought a shivering head-teacher from Zambia to Paxton Pits?

Our connection with Wiseman is through one of our Voluntary Wardens, David Bale. Last year our Ranger Matt Hall went with Sarah Newton on behalf of a small unregistered charity called the WorldWide Connection project that David set up in order to support struggling local initiatives and came across the Jack CECUP (an abbreviation for Community Education Centre for the Under Privileged) charity school in Lusaka. The story of the school hit the world's press through the efforts of a little girl called Thandiwe Chama who was the International Child of the Year in 2007. Bob Geldof prsented her with the award for he bravery and dedication in getting a basic education for herself and her friends.

Thandiwe Chama
When she was 8 years old, her school closed down because there were no teachers; they had all died from AIDS. Thandiwe set off to find another school, on foot, leading 60 of her fellow pupils. The Jack Cecup school took them in and Thandiwe became Wiseman's protege. She has continued to be active on behalf of children's rights to be educated and to be free from  AIDS.

"It's so important to know that also a child has rights. At school I learned about rights. And I knew then that this was something I wanted to fight for. Because, if children are given an opportunity, they for sure can contribute in making this world a better place." - Thandiwe Chama.

David has posted the following notice:

Zambia Day in Huntingdonshire: on the afternoon and evening of Saturday 2nd February starting around 4.00 p.m. at Rose & Crown Quaker Centre, 48a Post Street, Godmanchester (opposite the free Mill Yard car park)
Be honest; do you really know where Zambia is?
This event, to celebrate Wiseman’s visit and his many achievements in Zambia, promises to be a enjoyable occasion at which people from all communities in the Huntingdon area (and beyond) can get together to meet, talk and sample some Zambian cooking, culture and music.   Hildah Mulenga from Southend who runs the Mumba Children’s Project in the Copperbelt has offered to come and talk about her project and it should also be an opportunity for Wiseman Banda to tell us more about his life and work, including the Teenage Mothers Sewing project he is currently developing, together with some of his previous achievements, such as Kidz Kameraz (a young journalist training programme); the Jack CECUP Child’s Right group; and the success of his protegee, Thandiwe Chama, in becoming International Child of the Year in 2007.   We shall also mount a small display about the WWCP link between Cambridgeshire and Lusaka, to the west of the railway.
Please tell people about this event, come along yourself and bring your family and friends.   Let’s bring Wiseman’s visit to a close by giving him a very special send off!