“Deep English”

A new rule has been instituted at the boarding house and at the center…English only! Although everybody loves and appreciates Zambia’s numerous dialects (72 to be exact), the students need to practice and improve their English. All national exams are in English. But because of the overwhelming number of students in classrooms, teachers tend to revert to local languages to get their message across faster. In addition, many parents and guardians don’t speak English at all, so students are not getting the English exposure they need to do well on exams and compete with students from the capital who have better resources. Students, staff and volunteers have to pay a “steep” fine for any infractions, including speaking Bemba, Nyanja, Tonga, French, etc. Students pay 5 ngwee (the equivalent of a penny), staff must pay 1 kwacha (twenty cents), and the Muzungu price is 2 kwacha.

The day has been full of laughs as everybody keeps tabs on who owes what. Madalisto, our resident cook who is in the middle of her gap year between high school and college, owes 2 kwacha, Bertha owes 15 ngwee, and Agnes from the boarding house already owes way too much and when she is caught speaking Nyanga claims that it is “deep English.”  Enzo and Julie-Anne keep getting caught conversing in French, they owe a lot too. The only one who seems to be in the black is Scott, since nobody is around to speak Spanish with him.

Marie-Odile, Karen and Director Agnes are on a totally different mission. They left at 6am this morning to head to Zambia’s capital, Lusaka. Due to major road repairs, the usual 45 minute drive now takes at least twice as long with deviations through dirt trails. And to avoid thick traffic that now overwhelms Lusaka’s city center during rush hour, they had to leave as the sun was rising.

Thanks to a very special fundraiser this spring, money was raised to start AEP’s first small business in Zambia. Alice Chomba and Irene Mwale, two young ladies who completed a certificate in tailoring and design at a vocational training center through an AEP scholarship, will run a tailoring shop in the local Shikoswe market. We hope that this will at a minimum allow them to sustain themselves and eventually, along with other small business, make the youth center more self-sustainable.

With Alice and Irene guiding the group, all the tools and materials needed to open the shop—sewing machines, cloth, thread, scissors, the works—are being purchased. Later this month, the shop will be in full swing.

The trip is wrapping up for three volunteers. Marie-Odile, Julie-Anne and Scott head back to the United States on Saturday. But Karen is staying behind to work full time at the center until the winter holidays. And then will be returning again in January.

Karen will be blogging regularly, so keep a look out!

Signing off.

The AEP Volunteer Team.