It’s early May and I’m in Kabwe, Zambia - a dusty and somewhat forgotten town. Through my visit I’ve come to understand more about the progress and impact of our International Education Programme Fast Forward which we’re piloting in a school here. The school I’m visiting has 175 pupils, but another school I go to caters to almost 1,400 pupils with just four classrooms...
The girls and boys attending these schools are some of the most needy in the community of Kabwe. They travel each day from their compounds, or slum areas, with some having spent time on the streets.
The impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic is painfully felt. Families and community members rally to take in orphaned children who have lost parents to the virus.
The children face incredible disadvantages; often living in absolute poverty, in poor housing without proper sanitation. Perhaps walking 2 or 3km to a local water pump, or walking for an hour to get to school each day. When these girls and boys arrive in first grade they’re often just getting used to the most basic things, like sitting on a stool or holding a book.
But these young girls and boys - who have known more problems than I’ll ever in my lifetime - are keen and bright in the class room and fun and energetic in the playground.
People here are getting on with life and I can’t help but feel humbled by their resilience and positive outlook.
We’ve developed the Fast Forward Programme to help address some of the key challenges faced by Zambian schools - lack of resources being one of the biggest.
I saw first hand the incredible challenges teachers work under; severely lacking textbooks, huge class sizes and poor facilities. Fast Forward helps to address this by providing low-cost, durable, solar powered tablets for teachers and students; loaded with the complete Zambian Primary Curriculum in English as well as Zambia’s seven official languages.
Fast Forward is providing high-quality teacher training and learning materials – but technology alone is not the answer. We recognise teachers as agents of change in the lives of their students and give them the training needed to make them more confident and skilled in the classroom.
Our Fast Forward Programme emphasises that all children have unique potential that should not be limited by their backgrounds. There were moments when I questioned whether the intervention of cutting edge materials like the tablets was an answer. But not only are the tablets a solution to schoolbooks that date and damage quickly – they support our belief that every child deserves access to not only education, but to quality education.
Over and over again I was stuck by the incredible pride that the teachers and children feel because of Fast Forward. Mr Elasmus, a fourth grade teacher explained,
‘For the girls and boys to know that they, from so called ‘bad areas’, are the first to be part of the Fast Forward Programme makes them feel really good about school. It lets them know that they are just as good, and as valued as, the children in private schools.’
I saw first-hand the difference Fast Forward is making. It's showing children and their communities that they have choices. It gives children and teachers greater confidence and higher aspirations - allowing new generations to break the cycles of the past. To me Fast Forward is planting seeds of possibility that I hope will continue to grow and flourish.
If you can, please DONATE HERE to the Fast Forward Programme - your support will help us reach more girls and boys in schools in Zambia giving them a chance at a better, brighter future.