Chongo School

There was no moon that night, so the woman’s journey was even more difficult than normal. Stumbling along the dirt road from Chongo, trying to avoid the potholes, the fourteen kilometres she had to walk seemed never-ending. Oh yes, she had walked this road many times before – but tonight was different, for on her back she was carrying Molegwa, a ten-year-old disabled child.

They were on their way to the hospital – the boy had been taken ill during the afternoon, had grown steadily worse, and eventually there was nothing for it but to carry him to the mission hospital at Monze because, of course, there is no public transport in this part of Zambia. No buses, no trains, no family cars… and no ambulances.

So the woman carried the boy fourteen kilometres, deposited him in the hospital, and then turned round and walked all the way back – because she is the schoolteacher at Chongo, and she would have to be up in the morning to care for two dozen other disabled kids.

"I have been to see Chongo school," reported the director after his most recent visit to Zambia. "It is an appalling place." This place is north east of Monze, where of course we are already very active. Out in the countryside, Chongo school caters for 639 children, of which 26 are disabled, and are cared for as boarders by one house-mother, whose duties include carrying young Molegwa to hospital.

This is a particularly difficult job, because there is no healthcare at the school, and no equipment with which to care for them – not even any wheelchairs. The disabled kids are effectively left to fend for themselves, and they are accommodated in two distinctly unsatisfactory dormitories – cracks in the wall, no power, and cooking only on wood fires, with it being the disabled kids’ job to go into the bush to find firewood. However, there is a small brick-built room, which looks depressingly like a prison cell, and if we could get to convert this into a clinic, the mission hospital in Monze are willing to station a nurse there.

Now, this is our kind of work, isn’t it! We think it will cost us about £4,000 to repair and extend the ‘cell’, while repairs to the dormitories will account for another thousand or so. It is difficult to put a price on the aids for the disabled, but a wheelchair will be £100 or so. There is no point in our providing a vehicle, because they have no way of maintaining it or running it – but this is where one of Zambia’s brilliant new ideas may come in. Recent thinking suggests that donkey-carts are the ideal transport for this area, and indeed our man up in Luansobe has already done a lot of work in finding donkeys. A donkey and cart for Chongo school could be immensely valuable – a team of three donkeys and a cart will be £500, and we’re working on it. The headmaster is reported to be ‘thrilled’ that anyone has bothered to help his school.