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Gilmour Dickson raised £500 from 7 supporters
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Weʼve raised £500 to Help Complete the Keela School - finish the roof and the floor. Maybe even get some desks and windows.
- Funded on Thursday, 31st December 2020
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The Keela school is located about 17km due South of Kaingu Lodge. Kaingu lodge has already supported the Itumbi Community school for well over ten years and has been intimately involved in the school since it’s inception. Kaingu Lodge facilitated the construction of the Itumbi school, pays the salaries of two community teachers, has installed a $15,000 solar water system, and provided countless donations of teaching materials, stationary, uniforms, desks, and repairs. Kaingu lodge had no intention of expanding our educational commitments beyond the Itumbi school as we are also paying bursaries for two local girls who have gone onto further education.
However, in June 2019 we received two visitors at the lodge on a motorbike. We sat down with them and they explained that they were teachers at a tiny place called Keela and they were going around asking for help in any way shape or form to develop their school. They were very humble, polite and very engaging to talk with. We explained that we are already very committed with the Itumbi school and that we cannot afford to take on more. We did however promise to come down within a few days and tour the school and take a look.
And so we did. On the 10th of June 2019 Julia and myself went down and met with Vinagie and Kennedy. It turned out that the school had been started by Vinagie, who is a local farmer but took it upon himself to start educating local children. After many years he had petitioned the District education Department to have the school recognised and for a government appointed teacher to help him. It turned out that this had literally just happened, and Kennedy had recently arrived and had initiated the tour around the area asking for help.
Kennedy (left) and Vinagie inside the rudimentary classroom.
It was explained to us in great detail how there was not even a decent house for Kennedy to stay in – he and his wife were sharing a tiny house next to the school which was really a storeroom. But what was even more astonishing than his house was the conditions that the children were being taught in.
The classroom was literally a few poles in the ground and some log benches on the ground. There was not even a blackboard – just an old sheet of half rotten plywood propped against the wall. Part of the classroom roof had been pulled off so that a roof could be put on Kennedy’s home.
The classroom building
Inside the classroom. No proper blackboard, no desks. Very difficult conditions to learn and to teach in.
The enthusiasm of Kennedy and Vinagie was infectious. But the conditions that they were trying to teach in were also shocking. I also wondered how it was as a young graduate teacher, recently married, to end up in a place like Keela. As Kennedy explained “we have literally nothing”. What they did have though was the community behind them. All the families were pulling together to make materials to build a proper classroom and a better house for their new teacher. People were moulding bricks and firing them in kilns near a source of water and then people were supplying their oxcarts on a rotating basis to transport the bricks.
Moulded bricks are then stacked in kilns in order to be fired.
But Kennedy went on to tell me how he did not have the heart to tell the people that there was no cement. The community were providing the only thing they had – labour and natural materials – to try and build a school. People had scraped together to buy an occasional bag of cement so there was a basic foundation started for the teacher’s house:
The teachers house had started, but at this rate and with no materials it was never going to be completed.
Local families were taking it in turns to transport bricks from the kilns to the school site.
Probably not the house that Kennedy envisaged living in when he started teacher training college.
We were saddened by the conditions at the school, but we were impressed by the spirit of the two teachers and of the community members that we met. We also resolved on the spot to do what we could. But having been in these situations many times, we explained to Vinagie and Kennedy that we were making no promises or guarantees but we would do what we could.
When we got back to the lodge, we sat down with our other partners Rick and Lynda and the four of us decided that we couldn’t ignore their plight. We immediately sent down a few bags of cement so that the house construction could at least continue. We also ordered in some blackboard paint and board to make a proper blackboard. We sent down some old tyres for the oxcarts so that brick movement could continue. Mike our mechanic rebuilt the engine of Kennedy’s motorbike. In short, we did what we could to keep things ticking along.
We also took Kennedy down to Itezhi Tezhi town (the district capital) to meet with the chief executive of the district council to ask about drilling for water as the lack of potable water was a huge issue. The children were drinking from a hand dug shallow well. But so were the goats and the monkeys! The council were receptive and willing to send out the drilling rig but only if all the diesel was supplied and the casing pipes for the borehole were supplied.
We did what we could, and generous friends and family and guests also donated. We build up a small fund that enabled us to organise to purchase a bulk amount of cement, reinforcing wire, roofing sheets etc to enable Kennedy’s house to be finished and a good start to be made on the construction of a proper brick built two classroom blocks.
Kennedy’s house almost completed
Progress was being made, but there were still some big issues pending. The donations and contributions that we had made were nowhere near enough to see the project through to completion. Yes, progress was being made, but I was very aware that the huge issue of water was not yet tackled, and that material was going to run out at the level of roofing the building.
The start of a school. The foundation is done.
But over the weeks and gradually the months, the project kept going. The oxcarts kept rolling and the builders kept bricklaying. By September it was all starting to look like a real building
By the beginning of November 2019, we bought the steel window frames so that they could be incorporated, and the building could keep going up.
We also received a generous and sizable donation from some very kind Swiss guests towards drilling a borehole for clean water. So, we ordered the casing pipes from Lusaka. I should also point out that our supply company (Markus Weltin) did not charge commission or transport on any single item that we ordered for the school. This generosity was much appreciated.
The shallow hand dug well that the school (indeed the whole community) was using.
We had everything arranged with the council, diesel was bought, and the drilling rig arrived. The sense of excitement was incredible. School stopped and in fact all the children were mobilised to carry drilling rods and roll barrels of fuel.
The site was chosen (by water divining) and drilling started. And it went on and on and on. At a depth of 50m the hole was still a dry one. So, another site was chosen. The same thing. Another dry hole. This was now rapidly turning into a disaster. Such a drilling rig uses a lot of diesel and what had been purchased with donations was gone…
The end of the second full day of drilling and everyone is a bit heartbroken.
At this stage we were at the end of the second full day of drilling. We had already consumed another 200L of diesel that we grabbed from the lodge. The budget was long gone… The district council were going to pull the rig away. They were happy to keep drilling, but we needed fuel. We couldn’t just stop at this stage, so we donated right there and then enough to go for another full day as well as get the hand pump for the well (our initial plan had been to use a small solar pump that we had, but it was clear that the depths we were dealing with were far too deep for the pump).
Day three saw the drilling crew arrive back (they had gone in a small vehicle back to Itezhi Tezhi for the night after already having spent one night sleeping in the drilling rig and the classroom). They came with the district water engineer who selected a new site.
Success! Right at the end of day 3.
And then we did it. Right at the end of the day we hit water. And according to the drilling crew this was good water. In fact, they commented that it was the best hole they had drilled the entire year. Not too deep either at 30m which is a good thing.
Even the drilling crew were ecstatic!
It is now early December 2019, and we made a last visit down to Keela before we close the lodge for the season. Kaingu (like most remote lodges in Zambia) closes for the worst of the rains in Jan, Feb and Mar. We were delighted to see the building almost up to the roofing level as well as everyone enjoying clean, safe, and plentiful water from the borehole.
We discussed the next steps. We were looking good for international bookings for 2020 and we were super confident that with the help of a few international guests we would get the building done completely – the roof, the floors and the plastering. We even started discussing about funding desks and school equipment. Oh, and we had also put Vinagie on our lodge payroll (being a community teacher he does not get an official salary).
We were genuinely proud of what we had achieved since only June.
Then as 2020 started unfolding it became clear that the world was in trouble. Julia and I got the last Emirates flight back to Zambia as the world started locking down. Our international guest bookings started evaporating rapidly. The school development was at a complete standstill. We were fighting just to keep our doors open and our staff paid. The whole development of the school had been funded either by us or by international guests that wanted to also help, and with international travel at a complete standstill, so was the school development.
The community finished the building work up to the roof level and that is where we stand as at now in October 2021. Zambia in terms of health has been relatively untouched by covid. But the economic effects have been devastating and the schools also have spent many weeks closed. There is no such thing as distance learning in the Keela community… As tourism starts to open up and we look to next year we are confident that we can get the school finished next year. But it will not be easy. Our priorities as a business are to recover first before we can look to help others. We paid Vinagie (and the teachers in Itumbi) through this difficult period, but to finish the actual school we are looking for outside help.
Anything would be appreciated.
Gilmour Dickson, Kaingu Lodge 14th October 2021.
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Ben and Morag
Aug 28, 2019
Hope this helps, all the best from Scotland
Jun 20, 2019
Great stuff Gil! Hope to be back for a visit soon.
Jun 20, 2019
Hope you manage to reach your target - such a worthwhile cause
Jun 19, 2019
Hi Gil, keep up the good work, Mo and I will get back some day Ben
Jun 19, 2019
Jun 19, 2019
Hope you smash the target!
Jun 17, 2019
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Co-owner of Kaingu Safari Lodge, just trying to give back into our local communities with the overall long term vision of reducing pressure on wildlife resources through education and poverty reduction.