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The Digital Agency for International Development

We’re helping to build a school in rural Zambia!

By Tom Lord on 22 May 2019

10 years after running IT workshops in an entrepreneurial program in Samfya District, we’re now working with one of the graduates to raise the roof in their school.

A training session in action, 2008. We would talk through the concepts to be taught in the morning, and the trainers would run sessions such as this one in the afternoon. They were fast learners!

Between 2008 and 2011, Aptivate was involved in a multi-year entrepreneurship training program run by CAMFED with young women in rural Zambia. We delivered a series of sessions on IT skills, and worked with a group of trainers who had themselves recently graduated from the program. It was a real privilege to be involved in an "on the ground" project, working directly with people and sharing our knowledge with trainers there. The participants and trainers were excited about the power of technology to transform their lives and their communities, and so were we!

The partly finished classroom at the start of our involvement

Recently, one of the trainers we worked with, Penelope Machipi, got in touch. While we were working with Penelope, we vividly remember her using the new internet connection to find colleges in the local area with relevant courses for her, and she has gone on to train as a teacher, working in a school with a head who was also involved in the training program. The school has managed to raise funds and voluntary effort from the local community to start building a new classroom. The economy of the local area is heavily dependent on fishing in the large nearby lakes, and when the building work was part way through, the local government declared a fishing ban due to declining fish stocks, which meant that the building project had stalled through lack of money. Penelope wondered if there was anything we could do to help.

We approached ARM's CSR department and they kindly agreed to fund our suggested project to complete the classroom building work. Much excitement ensued! We’ve been communicating with Penelope and her school team about the project over the last few weeks.

The school decided to use metal spider trusses rather than wooden beams to support the roof, to prevent termites from undoing our useful work. Here’s some spider trusses under construction.

One line of thought in the world of International Development is that “development” is a process and a relationship over time with growth and learnings on both sides, rather than a “quick fix” intervention. Some of the most satisfying projects we work on are where we have a relationship with a person or a project for several years, and it’s really great to be able to support Penelope and her school, years after we first worked together, and having supported Penelope in a small way in her teaching career. Also a first for us, in that we are channeling funding to useful projects, rather than being hired to supply the IT part of someone else’s project! And we now know what spider trusses are. We intend to use them generously in our next software project.

The iron sheeting is now going up on the roof, attached to the completed spider trusses.
We’re nearly there!

The classroom is now in use, but as you can see in the picture, there is no proper floor, windows, doors or any plaster on the walls. Learning will be very difficult come the rainy season which starts in November.

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You can also make a bank transfer to Afrinspire (including after June 30th) using these details:

Sort Code: 20-17-35
Account number: 80169358
Reference: Zambia School project