NANKUNTWE/MPUKANO – Three schools – at Mpukano, Muzii and Nankuntwe – in the eastern floodplains of Zambezi Region have been overwhelmed by floodwaters.
In total over 500 learners and their teachers now face serious sanitation challenges such as a lack of safe drinking water and ablution facilities.
Learners are being forced to cross streams in dugout canoes to attend school, making them vulnerable to drowning and crocodile attacks.
There are reports of other schools such as Namiyundu, Masikili and Ivilivinzi facing a similar situation.
At Nankuntwe the over 190 tents accomodating learners and the thatched huts that serve as the teachers’ accommodation are surrounded by water.
Due to a lack of accommodation, two classrooms had been turned into makeshift living quarters for teachers with learners receiving their lessons in tents. The situation is the same for learners at Mpukano with about 23 learners crowded into each single tent.
Learners at Muzii are living in makeshift tents a few metres from the school and those tents are also surrounded by floodwaters compelling learners to cross the water by canoe to reach school. According to acting school principal Ignatius Kawana, the floods have affected normal school activities and present a risk to learners.
“Learning is hampered due to the lack of space for outdoor activities. Learners also have to cross the waters every day. Some of the learners are still small children. Should anything happen to them while crossing the water I don’t know how we will handle that,” he said.
Residents who are reluctant to move to higher grounds described this year’s floods as mild and having come late, which made them decide against relocating. “Last year we celebrated independence in the camps. The floods came late this year and we felt no need to move to higher grounds,” said Alfred Mbala, the school board chairperson for Muzii.
With crop fields already flooded and health risks a major concern, the communities appealed for more food assistance and the provision of mobile clinics.
The nearest clinic to the schools is about eight to ten kilometres away at places such as Schuckmannsburg, Itomba, Mbalasinte and Impalila.
Said Kabbe Constituency Councillor Raphael Mbala: “The situation is not conducive for healthy learning. We will have a meeting with the education directorate to discuss the situation. Assistance is being given though it’s not much. We have water purification tablets and disinfectants for the pit latrines. Drought relief food is being distributed. People ploughed but because of heavy rains that came in December and January their crops were destroyed by both rain and floods,” said Mbala.
Mbala revealed that money would be made available this year for the elevation of school grounds and the construction of bridges and culverts to ease the annual calamity normally experienced during floods.
“We are going to elevate at least four schools this year, at Mpukano, Nankuntwe, Muzii and Namiyundu. Other schools will be elevated later such as Masikili and Ivilivinzi. The money for such an undertaking from the Office of the Prime Minister was diverted to drought relief last year. We are also going to build bridges and culverts. If schools are elevated the water would remain far from the schools and children would have ample space to play and even the affected surrounding villages could relocate and settle within the vicinity of the school,” said Mbala.
Community members further bemoaned the lack of transport services and queried why the Kapelwa Kabajani ferry was being underutilised.
Mbala said the revised prices for the ferry have not been gazetted by Cabinet, adding that the ferry has not yet been legally certified for operations even though such issues are being expedited.
“Cabinet has agreed to our proposal on prices. From Katima to Schuckmannsburg it is N$45 and to Kasika it’s N$85, but this has not been gazetted by Cabinet due to the fact that the Act has not yet been formulated. Another challenge is the ferry has not yet been certified to carry passengers but such issues are being tackled as urgently as possible,” he explained.
By George Sanzila