Global Sites: Zambia
Beauty Nzila with staff and students.
Zambia Update: Reaching Out In A Moment of Grief
A teacher knows she has truly taught empathy if her students can comfort her when her own heart is breaking.
Beauty Nzila, founder of the Blessed Vale School, deeply mourned the passing of her mother this year, so much that she had to take a brief respite from her duties at the school. She thought she would have to bear her burden alone. She did not anticipate that her middle school students would step up to provide the food and funeral arrangements and then take their place alongside her, to mourn her loss as no one else could do. Better than anyone, they seemed to understand her pain.
The children had been raised with the habits-of-heart at the center of their lives ever since the school first opened. They now felt such deep empathy that they took on adult roles in the community. Beauty realized she had prepared children in a vulnerable community for moral leadership, with the help of her Full-Circle Learning curriculum. She describes the training of her staff as the event that helped her achieve her life's purpose.
Beauty told this story as the Zambian Full-Circle Learning Program Director, representing her country at Liberia's Education as Community Transformation Conference. Hers came as one of many testimonials of both the effectiveness of and the need for such academic programs. She spoke of Full-Circle Learning as a process that inspired her own growth as an educator and has shaped the lives of children and families, from the time she started a community school under a tree until this year, when she has opened a secondary school, receiving no government funds for her tuition-free school.
Beauty's Blessed Vale School serves perhaps the most economically stressed, crime-ridden neighborhood in Lusaka, helping students apply their inner strengths and outer skills to transform their community. At the Education as Transformation conference, the school founder stood alongside Liberian speakers who also offered stories of sacrifice that gave form and substance to the vision of the nobility of the teaching profession and the strategies that create positive change in the next generation.
In Liberia, two civil wars and the scourge of Ebola interrupted education repeatedly over time. These combine with continual economic and public health challenges and limitations in basic services, including transportation, to make the accessibility of "education for all" a challenge. Transcending these obstacles, teachers have stepped up the goal to provide "education for altruism." Teachers have worked toward these sane goals this year in the Gambia, in Tanzania, and in Ethiopia, just as teachers have effectively done for so many years in Lesotho, Kenya, and South Africa.
When you consider helping us support this work, remember the echoes of empathy you will create among students who know that each generation must stand on the shoulders of the last, especially in times of great need.
In the poorest neighborhood in Lusaka Zambia, families live on less than a dollar a day. Crime is rampant. Here, a mother began to teach her child, as education was not accessible or affordable. Soon other mothers dropped off their children. Before long, this resilient mother, Beauty Nzila (pictured at left in the top photo above) had to find some abandoned buildings for her school. She called her school Blessed Vale. Dr. Farzin Rahmani, a physician from Great Britain, volunteers much of his time to building clinics and schools in Africa. He discovered the project, added another building, and put us in touch with Beauty, and soon she was requesting assistance in the form of training for her teachers. Maureen Mungai first visited the school and then teachers embraced Full-Circle Learning.
A series of volunteers followed in her footsteps. Antoinette Wright (pictured in the green scarf left) spent a summer at the school after a bout of tuberculosis had cause a school closure in the spring. She helped keep the school open and taught the students to improve their community as they applied the Habits of Heroes curriculum. During the Advocacy unit, students went out into the community to ask its members what changes they would like to see. People quickly realized that only education would end the cycle of poverty and crime in the neighborhood. Soon children were marching down the street after them, shouting, “We want change!” In the fall, the school’s population had jumped from 300 to 600 students. As of 2012, it is nearing 1000 students. The students themselves taught the community about the need for universal education.
Antoinette was not the only one to touch the children’s lives. When volunteer Shirley Marks then came to Chebolya, she and Farzin Rahmani, a member of the trustees, had a chance to join Beauty in setting up a meeting with Zambia’s first president, Kenneth Kaunda. He was so impressed with the school, he commented that every school in Zambia should become a Full-Circle Learning School. Beauty had already trained teachers in nearby Lwimbe.In 2011, FCL representative David Efetebore was sent to provide advanced training for the new teachers, to help them achieve the high goals before them. In 2012, the school is setting up an economic development project to increase its own sustainability, with the help of Full-Circle Learning.