Taonga School Update
This blog post was written by Morgan, who is an intern with Arise Africa living in Zambia
We are very excited about our newest partnership with Taonga school. This school began when Abi, a teacher from the UK, came to stay with the MacDonald family for one year.
The MacDonalds are from Scotland who moved to Zambia where they run a farm. Through the years they ended up housing and caring for several street boys (they currently have 17!), but that’s another story for another blog post!
Abi came to stay with them thinking would would only visit and help for a short period of time. During that year she was teaching some of the boys in the home and started a preschool class for the worker's children on the farm. As local community children heard about the preschool class more and more of them asked to join. One day 5 girls came to the gate to ask if they could be in the school. Abi agreed and when she met them at the gate the next day, she found they had brought 30 friends with them! Abi saw children in the area desperate for an education and felt compelled to extend her stay. Her class of students expanded and she eventually opened Taonga Community school. She has been at Taonga for 7 years now! She runs an incredible school full of 110 bright and eager students.
My favorite thing about the way Abi runs her school is that she allows anyone who wants to learn and is willing to work hard to attend her school. Often times in Zambia, due to various circumstances a child may be 17 years old but hasn’t completed much school. If they try to enroll in school, they are denied because of their age. Abi’s 3rd grade class has several teenage boys who are working hard and want to get an education. Abi is providing them with this opportunity, which would be very hard to find elsewhere. They are the sweetest boys and I'm encouraged to see them at school every day.
Education standards in Zambia are lower than those in the US and the UK (where Abi is from). It can sometimes be hard to motivate teachers to raise the bar and work hard to provide a high quality education. Even if the motivation and the desire is there, teachers often haven’t received the training necessary to do so. Despite difficulties, Abi has worked hard to maintain her expectations and provide these kids with the best possible education she can. It’s inspiring to see the result of all her hard work and determination. She has surely learned how to be flexible as we all have to give up things when working in a different culture, but at the end of the day she has still built an incredible school where children are learning and also growing in their knowledge of God.
Arise Africa is so excited to be able to partner with Abi and provide her with some financial support through school fees, help her expand her school, and provide her with child sponsorship officers who work in the schools every day, discipling and loving on the students. Twenty-six children were sponsored this summer as a result of generous mission trippers and word of mouth as they shared about their time in Zambia. We currently have 70 children out of 110 sponsored at Taonga school.
Our goal as of now is to build Taonga school up to grade 5. In the past month, we have begun construction for a library and 2 additional classrooms. The foundation was laid for the container, which will serve as their library. Here’s a few snapshots from the day the library (container) was placed at Taonga a few weeks ago.
We reached out to our supporters to help us fill the library with books for the kids and you guys did not disappoint! The American office was packed full of books! We can't wait to have a full library for the kids to use.
Here are the new classrooms in progress! They are going up so fast!
As of Thursday, Arise has started a feeding program at Taonga school feeding all of the children even if they are not sponsored yet. After serving all the students lunch, Abi said that she had dreamed of being able to feed her students during school for the last six years. We love that we can come alongside her and provide her with the means to do some of the things she’s wanted to do.
We currently have two child sponsorship officers at Taonga, Kochelani and Jay. One of their tasks is to teach Bible class for the students once a week. I got to sit in on Bible club this week and was very encouraged.
Koch started by asking the kids review questions over what they learned last term and the kids clearly paid attention and learned a lot last term.
During this school term they are teaching on how to be a servant leader. This week we talked about how Jesus came to serve and Koch used one of the grade 3 boys, Everson, as an example of servant leadership. He asked the kids if they noticed how Everson always waits until all the other students have eaten before he eats. When he comes to get his food, Abi often rewards him with a little extra. We discussed ways we can be servants and leaders to those around us. Several kids shared a practical way to serve their friends. It’s encouraging to see our staff teach Scripture to the kids in a way that they can relate to and understand.
The kids learn songs and memorize Bible verses as well. Most of the students would tell you that Bible club is there favorite part of the day!
We even had a parent stop by earlier that week to drop off a letter, which explained her gratitude to Abi and Koch for teaching her child about Jesus in addition to giving him a good education. She said that he has truly been changed because of their investment in his life.
Big things are happening at Taonga. Thanks to everyone who has sponsored a child, supported this project financially or through donated books, and for your continued prayers over this school!