Saving The Children In Lufwanyama: Weighing Up The Health And Education Programs Of Save The Children In The District

Friday 31 January 2014

Lufwanyama district, on the Copperbelt province of Zambia, is the implementation district of Save the Children work in the area of health and education. It is the second largest district in the country with an area of 11,469.6 Km2 , although sparsely populated with a total number of 85,033 people. Out of this number, 15,136 are children under five, while 42,745 are children below the age of 15. This is according to the 2010 national census. A total of 997 Kilometers are covered to reach all the eleven Health Centers and seven Health posts.

Government and community schools in Lufwanyama have a peculiar distribution in that there are more community schools than government ones in the district. Therefore, in as much as government says that all schools belong to the government, the situation is very different on the ground in Lufwanyama. As of last year February 2012, the district had 38 government schools and over 45 registered community schools and many others that were not registered. Most teachers at these community schools only have grade 7 and 9 qualifications, while only a few have gone up to grade 12. As a result, there is need to upgrade their educational qualifications for them to be able to provide quality education. However, this is a problem for a number of them as colleges insist on grade 12 certificates for one to be enrolled for any programme. The other disadvantage is that most teachers are above 40 years of age and by the time they finish college they would be older than the required age that government stipulates for employment. It is for this reason that Save the Children has embarked on a programme to train community school teachers in various methodologies and skills to enable them teach effectively. So 20 teachers are now trained every term basis since 2012.

For ECCD (Early Childhood Care Education and Development) there are now many pre-schools but no government policy in place yet that should help standardize the education that is being given to the children. There has been a draft policy for some years now and even the standard curriculum is still in draft form, therefore, pre schools across the country seem to have their own method of handling ECCD.  This is why Save the Children is advocating for the completion of both the policy and curriculum.

Save the Children also trains teachers and community members to maintain the schools in the district, which can easily be vandalized. Additionally, Lufwanyama has volunteers in ECCD to manage these schools.  Save the Children does not pay cash but gives these community members items like T-shirts and bicycles, but this is becoming an issue. There is also concern that Save the Children does not pay school fees like the other organization working in the area. This organization has been working hand in hand with Save the Children and they have dissected the district in two parts to avoid duplication of work.

Save the Children Sponsorship Program Manager in Kalulushi, Agnes Zalila explains that the organization’s sponsorship programme links a child to the sponsor who contributes to the organization on a monthly basis. Save the children then ensures that school requirements of the child like books, tables, pencils, pens and others, are provided and that they benefit other children other than the one being sponsored. With the same funds, teachers are trained so that they can provide quality education and any rehabilitation to school infrastructure is supported. In the past one year, 3 schools have received building materials to rehabilitate their schools while 10 ECCD centers have received materials to build safe structures for ECCD.

In line with its commitment to help sensitize members of the community in health, education and child rights issues, the Kalulushi Office of Save the Children organized workshops with children and community members of Lufwanyama district from September 26th to 29th 2013. These workshops, which ran concurrently, had the same objectives of training these respective audiences in child rights, as well as education and health concerns. The children were selected from 9 schools of Lufwanyama district while the men and women were selected from 6 different centres. Among the men and women selected for the workshop were Traditional Birth Attendants, TBAs, Counselors, and Community Health Workers, CHWs.   

Having previously worked with Lufwanyama Councillors, Kalulushi Save the Children Sub office Manager Stephen Filumba is happy to note that the Councillors now have maternal health on their agenda and have gone as far as building a maternity wing which is currently at roof level. The office also started child rights programming for children and advocacy on maternal child rights budget. He noted that although every life is considered to be important, death of a neonate is still not considered in most of the Zambian cultures. With current restrictions where government banned TBAs from delivering pregnant women, the TBAs now have to escort the mothers to the nearest health facilities, which at times can take two or more hours to get to. This is despite the fact that about 50% or more of deliveries are still done by TBAs as they do not at times find nurses at these centres and so carry out the deliveries in these health centers.

Sometimes when health workers go for trainings, or to collect their salaries, no one remains in these health centers for days. In Kapalamwika, the only health worker at the center went for a long leave at one time and no one remained at the center. Every month end, the health workers also leave Lufwanyama to go and get their salaries in Kitwe and sometimes stay away for about two to three days or even more. Mr. Filumba further observed that in Malawi, Community health surveillance assistants are on government pay role so a token of appreciation to Community Health Workers would go a long way in helping alleviate the problems associated with few or no health personnel in the district.  Some health workers further say that some TBAs are very accurate and that they learn a lot from them. However, some of them can have accidents and others have a tendency of choosing pregnancies and declaring that no one should touch a particular woman when she goes into labour other than them. Despite these disadvantages, the advantages of having TBAs, in places like Lufwanyama where there are few health facilities and even fewer health workers, still exceedingly outweighs the disadvantages.  

Government has now begun to train CHWs but education qualifications of a minimum of grade 12 certificates have been attached to these trainings. Most CHWs, therefore, cannot go despite initial investments in these people by organizations like Save the Children. Only 3 people are currently undergoing training from the existing 77 CHWs. When they finish with the training, there is no guarantee that they will go back to Lufwanyama. Therefore, it is better to train and motivate those that have already shown the interest in this work and are already doing it voluntarily despite not having grade 12 certificates. Training can also be reduced to 6 weeks or so, unlike the one year that is currently being used. With this, it will be difficult to fill all the 118 NHCs that need community health workers for Lufwanyama alone.

As we count down to the International Day of the Girl Child on 11th October, 2013, it’s appalling to note that early marriages are still a serious problem in Lufwanyama. This problem needs some serious interventions in order for people’s attitudes to change. Chieftainess Shimukunami of Lufwanyama has been commended for being passionate about the girl child education and a good voice for women of the community. The predicament of early marriages can be seen from the enrolment figures of boys and girls. From grade 1 to 7, there are high numbers of both sexes while from grade 9 upwards the number of girls drastically decreases. When follow ups are done, it is normally found out that the girl child had to be removed from school in order to get married. The child’s performance in school is never regarded and some of the girls that have been withdrawn are the ones that had been performing very well at school.

Most institutions also have a lot of men. For example, the DEBS office has about 4 women compared to about 34 men working there. Further, girls lack role models as all they see are mostly their own mothers and grandmothers carrying babies on their backs. So this becomes the ideal woman for them to become when they grow up.

In conclusion, a lot needs to be done to save the children of Lufwanyama, and what better ways to do that than investing in their health and education and ensuring that both girls and boys stay in school until they finish secondary level, without the fear of their female counterparts being married off before they complete school. For this reason, the work that Save the Children is doing in the district is not only commendable and highly regarded, but timely and judicious.