ChildFund New Zealand’s Sally Hewlett has worked in the education and development sector for many years, and was the driving force behind an education initiative that is boosting the quality of education in Zambia. Here she talks about a teacher who inspired her.

With Melvin in front of the new Mukupi School

By Sally Hewlett, Programmes Coordinator

It is such a privilege to work in the international development sector where you have the opportunity meet so many individuals that touch you and inspire you. Those with a resilience and courage to remain positive towards the future for them and their children despite the adverse conditions they are surrounded by. One such person for me is a teacher in a remote, rural in Zambia named Melvin Moonga.

Melvin is the head teacher at a school named Mukupi, meaning ‘blacksmith’, which was started as a community school in the mid 1970s. Going from a thatched hut to a concrete structure in early 1980s, the school’s roof was blown off by a storm in 2007 when ChildFund first met Melvin. The school was in a terrible state, and no teachers wanted to teach in such a place. But Melvin remained committed to the students and continued teaching with hundreds of students to care for.

Since that time, ChildFund New Zealand has supported a rehabilitation project for the school, and now Mukupi is a different place. The school role has tripled; there are 7 teachers there, an Early Childhood Centre, a science block and safe, clean toilet blocks. It is now a place of pride for the community and Melvin now stands proudly as the head teacher of this school.

I first met Melvin in 2008 when he told me of his journey, and in 2009 we were able to bring him out to New Zealand as part of the Global Schools teacher exchange. He had never seen the sea or a plane before, and the experience for him was “life-changing” he told me, to be able to experience a range of teaching approaches from the other side of the world. He has graduated from a ChildFund teacher training programme called ATLAS (Active Teaching and Learning Approaches in Schools) and now acts as a trainer, teaching others in his community about how to actively engage students in their own learning.

His community suffers from high HIV/AIDS rates, malnutrition, malaria and high illiteracy rates. Melvin himself suffers from diabetes. But little by little, with inspirational teachers like Melvin, conditions are improving for the children of the Mumbwa District.

The Ministry of Education have recognised the amazing work of such teachers, and have noted the programme Melvin and his colleagues have started and wish to incorporate it into national teacher training systems. As a result, participating schools have seen an increase in exam pass rates, a decrease in absenteeism and increase in child-centred activities.

When I saw Melvin last year he explained the change in his classroom.

“I used to be like a bus driver, just driving the students where I thought they should go. Now I have stepped back and joined the passengers and we are all on the journey together.”

If you would like to support education in Zambia please donate to our Zambia pre-school appeal today.

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