The last year has been a mixed year with excellent things happening but it has also been one tinged with sadness.
Around Christmas time, Mr Omega Kunda, a teacher who had been at the school since its beginning, took ill and died. Omega was a nice man who will be missed.
Last summer, whilst at Itala, I met with Amanda Forster who had brought a group of students to school from Lifesigns Expeditions. It was devastating to learn that she had lost her son Cameron, who was a pilot in the RAF, in a light aircraft accident.
Amanda said that she wanted to do something in her son’s memory and to dedicate it to him. After some discussion, it was agreed that during this coming year we shall build and equip a small orphanage and Crèche at the school. To that end, Amanda and friends have been furiously, and very successfully, fundraising and work will start on the orphanage during the autumn of 2017.
In January the Grade 7 results showed that even though the school only had 18 months notice to prepare for the new Zambian exam syllabus, the pupils and staff had worked extremely hard and achieved a pass rate of 82.6%. All of Itala’s students who had applied for entry to Mkushi High School, have been accepted.
Well done to all students and staff.
Changes in the Zambian education system have had consequences for all schools. We are pleased to say that Itala Foundation School has met all of the new requirements and we now have 14 full-time teachers, 9 of whom are newly qualified and are up to date with the new educational requirements. One of these new teachers, Ngosir Beauty, is not only a fantastic sportswoman but also a qualified electrician! Lights are now going on all over the school in more than one way!!
The pupils have had success on the football field, at the District level, by winning the tournaments and also wins at the District Sports Day.
The pupils had further academic success by beating two other state schools to win the District Health Competition.
During the summer four Trustees of the Charity took a group of 35 people, many of them Sixth Form students from Ysgol Syr Hugh Owen in Caernarfon, to the school. It was a fantastic trip and thanks has to go to the students for all of their hard work teaching, painting, playing sports and mixing with the students. Cultural trips such as these are an invaluable experience for all concerned. Thanks also have to go to the pupils of Syr Hugh Owen School who raised over £3000 for the charity.
In addition to all of this, general development work continues as we try to meet the changing needs of the area. Sixteen years ago, the new, small school with 26 students, sat on its own on the top of the hill outside of the Boma. Sixteen years on there are 1000 students in the school who are educated on a shift basis by 14 teachers and the Boma has crept up the hill. The school really is in the community now.
The creation of work and employment opportunities in the Copperbelt around Nkana Kitwe has meant increasing pressure on surrounding villages, of which Mkushi is the largest, with the consequent rise in the number of young people coming into school.
The examination syllabus was changed prior to academic books being printed to meet the new requirements. The fundraising by the Trustees and generosity by individuals has meant that last year we were able to purchase the new texts from Longman/Pearson in Lusaka as soon as they came out. This year, texts for the rest of the syllabus will be printed around Christmas 2017 and arrangements are being made to buy those as soon as possible.
A new water pump was installed earlier in the year closer to the school and the old pump lower down the hill has been given over to the village to use and maintain. We are now going to install an electric motor on the new pump and fit a header tank to make living and working at the school much easier for all.
The school continues to be at the heart of the Mkushi community with Church groups and children from other schools visiting in the evening to take advantage of the fact that we have lights so they can continue their work.
An ex pupil of Itala Foundation School, Hellen, has been successful in getting into Nursing School and a group of Soroptimists from Pwllheli are continuing the funding of her course. Hellen is doing well and has passed her first year exams. It is Hellens intention to come back to Mkushi after she qualifies to work in the local Clinic. We wish her every success.
Planning for next year is underway and we anticipate that there will be 4 school groups visiting from the UK. Building of the crèche and orphanage will continue and during July/August 2017 two Trustees who will be visiting with a group from Wales, will be planning the construction of an accommodation block for some of the teachers which we hope will be completed during 2018.
Managing a school from 5000 miles away is a difficult job and thanks have to go to all of the UK Trustees. However, none of this would be possible without the work and dedication of all of the teachers at the school and particularly to the new Headteacher Mr Marlon Chibuye who, despite all of the tasks passed over to him, still manages to operate with a smile on his face. Well done all.
R A Foster
Chairman of Trustees