By Chambo Ng’uni
WITH structures such as classrooms, dormitories and assembly hall having been painted recently, the outlook of Chalata Secondary School in Mkushi district has been beautified.
This rural boarding school sits on a vantage point below a rocky hill in Chalata, and is in a serene environment some metres from Mkushi River and the Great North Road.
However, all is not rosy at Chalata Secondary School, which is rated the second cleanest public secondary school in Central Province after Kapiri Mposhi Girls Secondary School.
The school has some nagging challenges, which if addressed, can transform the learning institution into one of the much sought-after in Mkushi.
Pupils are happy to be at this rural secondary school but they are concerned about the lack of ablutions and beds or bunk beds in their dormitories.
The pupils have confidence in their school management believing that it tries its best to ensure that they learn in a conducive environment for them to perform better in class and have good results after sitting for examinations.
“I would like to see a change at this school this term,” Matthews Lungu, a pupil, said. “As you can see [in this dormitory], we don’t have bunker beds and we sleep on the floor.”
Matthews, 17, a grade 11 pupil, shared in an interview recently that the lack of bunk beds is a serious problem for the pupils.
The school does not have bathrooms for male pupils, who now have no choice but to bath from the nearby Mkushi River.
And 16-year-old Patson Chiluba, a grade nine pupil, agreed with Matthews on the challenges at their school.
“I would like to see change, hopefully by the end of this term,” Patson said. “We need bunk beds and bathrooms. We should also have water throughout the day.”
The school management and the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) are trying their best to ensure that a better environment is created for the pupils.
Chalata Secondary School head teacher Sunday Mukosha said the lack of beds at the institution is a source of concern because pupils need to sleep in a better environment.
“My boys and girls sleep on the floor. My school has no bunk beds and there are no mattresses,” Mr Mukosha said.
For a boarding secondary school, Mr Mukosha said bunk beds are a necessity as opposed to a situation where pupils go with their own mattresses to a learning institution.
“There are no ablutions and toilets, my boys and girls bath in the Mkushi River. It is in this regard that as an institution, we are humbly requesting government’s intervention,” he said.
Lack of transport is another problem. The school’s management and PTA are now scouting for funds to buy a bus.
The school’s only vehicle, a light Canter truck which was recently repaired, is used to carry firewood and other necessities.
The school needs about K250,000 to buy a bus but only K100,000 has so far been raised.
“We have no bus despite being a secondary school. We need to take our pupils for sports and other activities using our own bus,” Mr Mukosha said.
He said management cannot ferry pupils using a light truck for school programmes.
Chalata Secondary School has 16 classrooms and runs from grade eight to 12. It has 128 female pupils and 178 male pupils.
The school also has 17 female and 15 male teachers. Ten female teachers and seven males are accommodated by the school while the rest rent houses in the surrounding community.
The institution records low pupil enrolments which Mr Mukosha attributes to lack of infrastructure and bedding requisites for pupils.
“This [lack of beds] might have been normal in the past, but for me I find it abnormal especially that I was at a well organised school,” he explained.
Mr Mukosha is confident that with better infrastructure, Chalata Secondary School can attract more pupils from Mkushi and beyond.
“If we improve our infrastructure, more pupils will be attracted to come to this school,” he said with optimism.
“With this number of pupils , it’s difficult to levy pupils for projects such as the one we have of buying a bus.”
Fortunately, the school has electricity and information communication technology (ICT) is one of the subjects that pupils learn.
The institution has 20 computers, out of which only 14 are currently working.
“We have power and our pupils learn ICT. The performance rate is at 75 percent and for now, these computers are not enough because the pupils are many,” Mr Mukosha said.
After scanning the male pupils’ dormitory, it became apparent that the lack of beds and other facilities which can help create a better learning environment at Chalata Secondary School is a genuine cry which should be treated with the urgency it deserves.