The village of Itenda, in the heart of the Muchinga escarpment, lies over a thousand kilometres from Zambia's capital Lusaka. Itis made up of a cluster of around seventy small huts made of clay bricks and grass; previously there was no school here, with the closest one located 20km away through the bush. However, as part of this project funded by the EU and implemented by Dutch NGO 'Help a Child' and in-country partner 'Reformed Open Community Schools' the villagers in Itenda have now built a school.
For weeks they dug for clay, formed it into small cubes, dried them in the sun, and built a great semi-circular kiln, which was then fired to harden it. The school is run by a group of community leaders. Everyone has a different responsibility: one person acts as a caretaker, another tends to the school garden; the main source of school funding and of the teacher's salary.
The teacher in Itenda is Mr Kaira, who says about his work: "Project managers visit twice a year from Lusaka. We can't do this by ourselves. For me, it's like a course in continuous education. We discuss new learning methods, children's rights, the best ways to improve conditions in our village. The children love being in school. Here, they have new books, maps, rulers."
Before, none of the children were attending school, but today almost a hundred boys and girls, aged 3 to 12, study reading, writing and arithmetic. Using a multi-coloured globe, the children have learnt where in the world are Zambia, Chama and Lusaka, expanding the confines of their village. The community school is a revelation, for the parents and village elders just as much as the children. "In two to three years, the children will know much more than their parents. The parents are now well aware that even primary education has the potential to change their children's lives" says Mr Kaira.
Apart from an education in counting and reading; teachers provide an education in daily hygiene, and respect for human rights. Through this programme of school building, the European Union is trying to effect a profound change in rural communities in Zambia, giving people living in remote villages the tools to dramatically change the course of their children's lives.