The Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops has insisted that it will proceed with its plans of constructing a modern shopping mall at St Mary’s High School in Lusaka.
This is despite growing pressure from parents and guardians of pupils studying at the school who want the project to be halted.
The parents and guardians say the Shopping Mall which will be built on the current school sports field, close to the classroom, will disrupt classes.
An online petition has since gathered pace and over 500 parents have since signed the petition demanding that the project be stopped.
The petitioners say, doing this will deprive the girls of sports facilities, is against the school motto of “Moral Excellence” and undoubtedly contribute to moral degradation, low academic performance of the girl child.
The parents are now offering to work in conjunction with the school to improve the existing sports and recreational facilities not only to promote healthy and active living for the pupils but also for the youths in this community.
But Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops Fr Cleophas Lungu Secretary General said the project shall go ahead.
“On behalf of the (ZCCB), we hereby wish to make some clarifications on a few concerns raised by some parents regarding the proposed construction of the Shopping Mall near St. Mary’s Secondary School in Woodlands – Lusaka; concerns that are unfortunately and maliciously being transmitted especially on social media.”
“Firstly, we wish to categorically state that the land in question belongs to the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB) while St. Mary’s Secondary School belongs to the Archdiocese of Lusaka and is standing on the land belonging to the Archdiocese of Lusaka which borders with the plot belonging to ZCCB. After a due process of consultation and reflection, the Conference has decided to lease its piece of land to a developer in view of realizing its potential for investment as this particular land has remained undeveloped for time immemorial,” Fr Lungu said.
He said, “Therefore, it is not true that the Shopping Mall shall be built on St. Mary’s Secondary School grounds/ land but on the Bishops’ Conference land which borders with the plot belonging to the Archdiocese of Lusaka where St. Mary’s School is situated.”
“Secondly, the Conference is aware that the developer of the said land shall put in place mitigation measures that will address the possible impact of the project with regard to the welfare of both the pupils and St. Mary’s Secondary School itself. For instance, the school will be completely fenced off from the mall. Further, the developer has committed to relocate sporting facilities which will easily be accessible to both St Mary’s Secondary School and St Dominic’s Major Seminary.”
Fr Lungu stressed that these facilities will not be part of the Shopping Mall adding that it is not true that the proposed development will suppress or deprive the sporting activities from the school.
“Quite to the contrary, the Developer will put up an upgraded sports field and a modern swimming pool to be used by the School and the Seminary. Thirdly, we wish to underline the fact that the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Church in general will not divert from its mission of complementing the efforts of government by offering quality education especially to a girl child,” he said.
He continued, “The Church will always endeavour to contribute towards national development through its social ministry which includes running mission schools. The benefits of those who have gone through these schools are visibly there for all to see. However, for the Church to continue rendering quality pastoral and social services not only in education but also in the health sector as well as through programs aimed at promoting integral development, it will need a lot of resources.”
Fr Lungu said gone are the days when the Church entirely depended on donor support from our parent Churches in Europe.
“Going forward, the Bishops’ Conference is resolved to embark on strategic ways of mobilizing resources that will enable the Catholic Church to fulfill its overall mission of integral evangelization. Lastly, we strongly believe that this is a good project that will benefit not only ZCCB but also the school (in terms social corporate responsibility) and the local community.”
He said after all, a strategic range of essential goods and quality services will be within their reach.
“Not only that, it is foreseen that about 250 permanent jobs will be created apart from numerous opportunities for many Zambians to do business in terms of being suppliers. We therefore hope that the faithful (especially Catholics) and other people of good will, shall not only understand but remain patriotic as well as support the Bishops’ Conference in its bid to realize the vision of the African Synod, that is, to build a Church that is self-propagating, self-ministering and self-sustaining.”
The school has been existence since 1939 has contributed to high quality education of girls in Zambia.