|© UNICEF Zambia/2008/ Nalungwe|
|UNICEF Zambia Representative Lotta Sylwander (left) with Ministry of Education Permanent Secretary Lillian E. Kapulu at the ribbon cutting ceremony for a new school dormitory in Shikabeta.|
CHOMBA, Zambia, 13 August 2008 – Students in Zambia face many challenges when it comes to getting an education. Early marriage, access to safe drinking water and lack of proper sanitation facilities are just a few of these obstacles, according to UNICEF Zambia Representative Lotta Sylwander.
However, there is another, lesser known issue that is keeping some of Zambia’s students at home: the threat of being attacked by wild animals.While predators like lions and leopards draw tens of thousands of tourists every year to Zambia, these animals pose a special threat to school children in this remote region.
“We received reports from the Ministry of Education that lions and other wild animals were attacking students who walk long distances from their homes to get to school,” said Ms. Sylwander. “Many children in this part of Zambia cover very long distances between their villages and their schools and it’s a dangerous and difficult trek.”
Ms. Sylwander noted that the long journey is especially challenging for girls.
Working with the Zambian Government, UNICEF has partnered with the Ministry of Education to protect vulnerable children by building dormitories for female students at public schools.
UNICEF provided the Ministry of Education with 235,000 dollars to construct the facilities and provide materials, including mattresses, in Chomba and Shikabeta.
The dormitories were officially opened when the Minister of Education Professor Geoffrey Lungwangwa travelled with Ms. Sylwander to Lusaka Province to meet with children, parents and community leaders, including Chief Shikabeta of Shikabeta, Zambia.
“With this support, we trust that more girls will stay in school and focus on their studies without worrying too much about the burden of long journeys,” said Ms. Sylwander.
UNICEF is working with the Ministry to provide the boarding facilities with solar panels and water and sanitation facilities. In the coming months, additional dormitories for girl students will be opened in Zambia’s Luapula Province.