Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
June 14, 2010
Alberta children send Zambians to school
St. Luke School staff, students raise funds to build African schools
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
SOUTH COOKING LAKE - Children in the Zambian community of Mubula used to trek 11 to 16 km in all weather conditions just to attend school. Unable to walk the distance, many simply dropped out.
But now, thanks to people like kindergarten teacher Pat Matishak and the staff and students of St. Luke School in South Cooking Lake, the children of Mubula can go to school in their own village.
St. Luke's raised thousands of dollars toward building a Grade 1 to 9 school for more than 600 children in the impoverished rural village. Then, in 2009, St. Luke helped fund the building of a second school in the community of Chalabana, a village of 2,000 people some 10 km away from Mubula across a river.
"I think we are to be our brothers' keepers and this is one way we can help our (Zambian) brothers," says Matishak, who has been behind the project for the past eight years.
Up to 800,000 children do not attend school in Zambia because they live too far away from a school or because they simply can't afford it. Zambia spends less than $40 million annually in all sectors of education - the equivalent to one school district's annual budget in Canada. More than 80 per cent of the Zambian population lives below the poverty line, hence are unable to pay school fees.
Following a lengthy petitioning process, in 2002 Mubula villagers were granted a permit to build their own school. The government had no money to build, but said if the villagers were able to build the school on their own, it would provide teachers and school supplies.
Villagers needed $30,000 to build a large brick-walled and iron-roofed school for Grades 1 to 9. But they didn't have any money and so they turned to Patrick Mpulubusi, a Zambian-Canadian in Edmonton who had been raised in Mubula.
In the meantime, they built a thatched-roof, mud-walled and mud-floored school and started with Grade 1. The following year, 2003, they added Grade 2.
When Matishak learned this story, her heart sank and she decided to do something to help the children. "I just think education is so important," she says.
In 2003 she joined Mpulubusi's Village School and Development Society (VSDAS), a non-profit society dedicated to provide financial and material aid to underdeveloped countries for education and development projects.
Matishak then brought the plea of Mubula's children to St. Luke, which immediately embraced it. "Everybody at the school got behind (the project) 100 per cent," she recalls.
Over the years - through fundraising activities like bake sales, marathons, raffles, coin competitions and pictures with Santa - staff, students and parents were able to raise over $20,000 for the Mubula and the Chalabana school projects.
Thanks to their efforts, the children of Mubula now attend classes in a brick-walled, iron-roofed and cement-floored school with seven classrooms, five teachers' houses, outhouses and a well that supplies them with water all year long.
Locally built wooden desks were placed in the school during the 2007-08 school year. Thirteen teachers currently work at the school.
ZAMBIANS JOIN IN
The Zambian government is so pleased with the Mubula School they are planning to build a high school next to it.
"It's incredible that a little money can do so much," Matishak says. "I feel a real sense of satisfaction. The students (at St. Luke) have also benefited; they now have a broader sense of how other people live."
All the monies raised by St. Luke's and the Village School and Development Society have been matched by the Alberta government.
Matishak is modest and gives all the credit to St. Luke's School and the Development Society. But her colleagues think otherwise. "This (Zambian school project) demonstrates her dedication for children all around the world," says teacher Laura Lampka.
"I think our awareness of global issues at the school has been really heightened with Pat's involvement with Mubula."
Matishak is retiring from St. Luke's, but she plans to continue raising funds to build schools for African children.
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