“I want to be like her. She is an inspiration to me as a girl-child in Nalolo,” says 16-year-old Chuma Sililo in reference to her dream of becoming a successful woman like Zambia’s first female Vice- President Inonge Wina. Chuma and Vice-President Wina have some things in common; they have both experienced life of a village girl and both hail from Nalolo district in Western Province.
These facts alone give Chuma the drive to pursue her dream of succeeding in life and she knows that to actualise that, good education is key.
Seated at the back of a classroom at Matongo Primary School in Nalolo district, Chuma and her classmates are studying for the 2018 grade nine examinations. Nonetheless, there are fears threatening Chuma’s desires of one day attaining high status in society, improving her life, helping her family get out of poverty and contributing to national development.
These aspirations, according to Chuma, are intimidated by the restriction in her studying time which is tied to daylight alone since she cannot go on with her books when the sun meets the horizon. Although Nalolo district has had no electricity from the times Vice-President Wina went to school in the 1950s to date, modern education curricula have however come with compelling dynamics such as computer studies which just require electricity.
Since Matongo Primary school has no electricity yet, Chuma feels inhibited but hopes the facility can be connected to power as soon as possible for her and fellow pupils to have extended hours of study and commence computer lessons.
“We have seen electricity pole lines near our school and we are excited that Government is bringing electricity. This will now change at this school and we can be helped to realise our dreams,” she says. Another grade nine pupil, Mwenda Mwenda, 17, trusts that the outside world would come closer in an event that electricity is brought to the school.
“We will be able to know what is happening around the country through radios and television. This will give us an opportunity to improve in our academic performance,” he says. The pupils, teachers and members of the Matongo community have glimmering hope that power is soon coming to the area going by the presence of a 23.5 kilometre of 33 kilovolt electricity overhead line under the Kataba Grid Extension Project done by the Rural Electrification Authority (REA).
Once this line is connected, Matongo Primary School, whose motto is “moving to the next level with education,” would move a level higher even in the pass rate, believes the head teacher Muyeyi Mulafulafu. Mr Mulafulafu says once the facility is connected, more teachers who shun rural postings would be attracted to be deployed at the school, a development that would also reduce the teacher-pupil ratio.
“Pupils will be able to study even after 18:00 hours and their performance will improve because of the extended time of study. We shall be able now to conduct computers lessons. Other economic opportunities will open up and the entire area will change,” he said.
Mr Mulafulafu says power will greatly transform the communities surrounding the school which is the last education facility in Nalolo district bordering Senenga district. In addressing the concerns and settling the anxieties of Chuma, Mwenda and even Mr Mulafulafu, REA has assured that it is lighting up the area before the close of this year as the works on the Kataba Grid Extension Project have been completed by the implementing contractor, Northlands Equipment Limited.
Government has spent around K8.1million on the Kataba Power Project which started in 2017 and is expected to be completed by December 2018, according to REA chief executive officer Geoffrey Musonda. Apart from Matongo primary school benefiting from power connectivity, Mr Musonda said the project involves electrification also of other facilities which include four schools and a village.
Schools to be electrified in Nalolo district under the project include Mukukutu Primary School, Liyamutinga Primary School, Lwimba Primary School and Nasiwayo Primary School as well as Sibumbu village.
Additionally, the Kataba Grid Extension Project comes along with separate works on internal wiring being implemented by Suberth Investment Limited for all the structures covered under the 2017 scope of work at a cost of K652,390.73. “The project will benefit about eight thousand people in the community once energised,” Mr Musonda told journalists who accompanied him on a tour of REA power projects in Western and Southern provinces in the first week of October, 2018.
The REA chief executive officer however expressed concern at reports of vandalism of power installations which he said was a set-back to the country’s social and economic development. He said people who were in the habit of destroying power cables through theft were doing a desservice to themselves as well as their areas will remain underdeveloped.
Mr Musonda said REA had received reports of installed power cables being stolen from the Mongu-Kalabo main substation which is under construction with an 11kilovolt power line connecting Sikongo district in Western Province. “Vandalism is so retrogressive. People who cut power cables and use them for making animal traps are not looking at long-term benefits of electricity. Government spends a lot of money on these projects meant for the development of the country,” he said.
The Mongu-Kalabo main substation, which is under construction, is expected to be completed before the end of 2019. REA constructed a line from the Mongu-Kalabo main substation going to Sikongo district and for the connectivity to function, it needs an operational substation, Mr Musonda said.
In order to complete the works on the Mongu-Kalabo substation and part of the works on Sikongo line, about K42 million is needed with this cost being shared between REA (60 percent) and Zesco (40), according to Mr Musonda.
With all the massive investments being poured into the energy sector, and the rural communities having access to electricity through REA, development is likely to be propelled and subsequently reduce poverty levels.