"Talking Walls" in Zambia

August 21, 2008

zambia-p3-schoolmoms.jpg
© US Fund for UNICEF/Casey Marsh
Moms and their kids came from miles around when we came to visit their schools, even though the school year doesn't start for another month.

En route to visit UNICEF programs in the southern province of Choma, Zambia, today we learned that the president of Zambia, Dr. Levy Mwanawasa, has died. So, today begins a national mourning period of 7 days, and the country is in quite a state of shock and grief. Everyone is being urged to stay calm in this time of crisis. Our first stop out in the field was Child Hope Africa, a pre-school with capacity for 150 children. It seemed as though all the mothers and their children"hundreds of them"walked for several kilometers to greet us at the school today, despite the fact that classes are not in session until September. But despite their numbers, there are unfortunately more than 1,000 pre-school-age children in the area that want to attend the school, and many have to be turned away because of overcrowding. Training and early-childhood education are key priorities for our colleagues at UNICEF Zambia, in close conjunction with the Zambian government. In fact, everything that UNICEF does is in partnership with the government and typically with other NGO partners as well. The idea is for the government to be self-sufficient, and ultimately, for there to no longer be a need for UNICEF in the country in the future.

zambia-p3-schoolmoms.jpg
© US Fund for UNICEF/Casey Marsh
Moms and their kids came from miles around when we came to visit their schools, even though the school year doesn't start for another month.

En route to visit UNICEF programs in the southern province of Choma, Zambia, today we learned that the president of Zambia, Dr. Levy Mwanawasa, has died. So, today begins a national mourning period of 7 days, and the country is in quite a state of shock and grief. Everyone is being urged to stay calm in this time of crisis. Our first stop out in the field was Child Hope Africa, a pre-school with capacity for 150 children. It seemed as though all the mothers and their children"hundreds of them"walked for several kilometers to greet us at the school today, despite the fact that classes are not in session until September. But despite their numbers, there are unfortunately more than 1,000 pre-school-age children in the area that want to attend the school, and many have to be turned away because of overcrowding. Training and early-childhood education are key priorities for our colleagues at UNICEF Zambia, in close conjunction with the Zambian government. In fact, everything that UNICEF does is in partnership with the government and typically with other NGO partners as well. The idea is for the government to be self-sufficient, and ultimately, for there to no longer be a need for UNICEF in the country in the future.

Casey Marsh is part of a delegation of U.S. Fund for UNICEF staff and supporters currently visiting UNICEF's country programs in Zambia. She will be reporting on her experiences from the field all week.

zambia-p3-schoolmoms.jpg
© US Fund for UNICEF/Casey Marsh
Moms and their kids came from miles around when we came to visit their schools, even though the school year doesn't start for another month.

While en route to visit UNICEF programs in the southern province of Choma, Zambia on Tuesday, we learned that Zambia's President, Dr. Levy Mwanawasa, had died. And so, the rest of our travels here will correspond with a seven-day national mourning period. It's aparent that the country is in quite a state of shock and grief. But in this time of crisis, everyone is being urged to stay calm and resume normal activities as soon as possible. Carrying on ourselves, our first stop out in the field was Child Hope Africa, a pre-school with capacity for 150 children. It seemed as though all the mothers and their children"hundreds of them"walked for several kilometers to greet us at the school today, despite the fact that classes are not in session until September. But despite their numbers, there are unfortunately more than 1,000 pre-school-age children in the area that want to attend the school, and many have to be turned away because of overcrowding. Training and early-childhood education are key priorities for our colleagues at UNICEF Zambia, in close conjunction with the Zambian government. In fact, everything that UNICEF does is in partnership with the government and typically with other NGO partners as well. The idea is for the government to be self-sufficient, and ultimately, for there to no longer be a need for UNICEF in the country in the future. Child Hope was one of the most rewarding sites on our visit so far. The kids took awhile to warm up to us. But within 30 minutes, we were swarmed by friendly children who wanted to look at the photos that we took of them and with them. I had the chance to play with the kids on a "play pump," which is a clever contraption that looks like a wheel in a playground. The kids can spin it and play on it, and at the same time, cause it to pump water to a well. UNICEF installed the pump and the kids were happy to show it off.

playpump1.jpg
© Roundabout Playpumps NGO/PBO
An example of the merry-go-round style "Play Pump" that UNICEF helped install.
We were also invited to tour the garden. Several elderly village women greeted us, singing and making a high-pitched welcome "call." They sang in their indigenous language, and they even managed to get Sean Flannery, U.S. Fund for UNICEF Board Member from the Northeast Region, to dance with them. Fortunately, I captured this special moment on video! In the afternoon, we visited Siamambo Basic School and Masopo Basic School. Both featured "Talking Walls," a UNICEF supported program. The walls of each school are painted with murals that teach children important health messages. There is a "malaria corner," an "HIV/AIDS corner," as well as a "nutrition corner" and others. The truly special aspect of the walls was the fact that the children used them to teach us, their visitors, about each topic. One student per wall stood up in front of our group with a stick (used as a pointer) and went into great detail about how to prevent malaria, AIDS and more.

zambia-p3-aidscornerjpg.jpg
© US Fund for UNICEF/Casey Marsh
Children in Zambia use "talking walls" like this one to learn"and to teach"about important topics like HIV/AIDS.
One of the most poignant moments was when a young boy pointed to the painting of a man in a hospital bed. He said, "And this is a person with AIDS. We must be kind to him and support him. Maybe his family rejected him. We must take good care of him." 16 percent of Zambians are living with HIV/AIDS, so the messages that these children are learning and teaching are truly inspirational.