The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has today officially handed over to the Ministry of General Education a dormitory for girls at Matebo Primary School in Chief Matebo’s area of Kalumbila District, 115 kilometres from Solwezi town, North Western Province. The school hosts over 500 learners.
The dormitory has been constructed by UNHCR at a cost of K360, 000 within the context of assisting refugee-hosting communities under the local integration programme. The dormitory was handed over by UNHCR Representative in Zambia, Ms Laura Lo Castro, to Kalumbila District authorities and is the first modern dormitory at the school, which was built in 1965 just after Zambia’s independence.
Before the construction of the dormitory, the girls, who have to walk a radius of up to 25 kilometres to attend school, were compelled to do weekly boarding in poorly constructed, unsafe, makeshift huts made of grass and mud structures within the vicinity of the school– a situation the boys are still facing.
During the hand-over ceremony, Ms Lo Castro, underlined the need to attach importance to girl-child education, especially in rural areas, by creating an enabling environment for them. She explained that although UNHCR is not a development agency, it endeavours, within its limited resources, to assist local communities in refugee-hosting areas. She expressed her gratitude to the people and Government of the Republic of Zambia for the active support and commitment to hosting former refugees and refugees.
Now that a girls’ dormitory has been constructed, there are a number of outstanding needs faced by learners at Matebo Primary School. Ms Lo Castro, therefore, called on the Government, other development partners, the corporate world and well-to-do Zambians to assist the school in constructing a modern dormitory for boys, who continue to live in unhygienic and unsafe makeshift structures as boarding “houses” at Matebo Primary School. She also called on the school management and on the parents to maintain the new structure in perfect condition and to start mobilizing resources available to the community to improve the living conditions of the boys. She observed that a school and a community active and engaged finds solutions more easily than those just waiting for external support.
Kalumbila District Commissioner, who officiated at the hand-over ceremony, thanked UNHCR for assisting the government by funding the construction of the girls’ dormitory, which will improve the learning environment for girls at the school and the success rate of affected learners.
The request to UNHCR to assist with the construction of the dormitory at Matebo Primary School was made by the residents of Matebo, through the Parent Teachers’ Association (PTA), during consultations undertaken by the Government and UNHCR to start the process of local integration of former refugees in 2012. As a result of these consultations, a 1 x 2 classroom block was the first to be constructed by UNHCR in 2014 at Matebo Primary school at a cost of K210, 000.
In the last two years, under the local integration programme, UNHCR has funded various projects – such as poultry, bee-keeping, fish ponds and irrigation projects – in Chief Mumena and Matebo in Solwezi and Chief Mwene Mutondo in Kaoma.