Interview With The Chairman Of Kitwe's Ituna School Project, Dr Andrew Grafton
Why is your project called Ituna and what does the name mean?
When we visited the school in 2005 it was already names the 'Ituna Community School'. The school was a Community School in an old Bar run by unpaid local volunteer teachers and with few resources. The owner of the Bar named it 'Ituna', although the word Ituna isn't Bemba and we think is from outside the country. Thus, we don't know what 'Ituna' means, although I note 'Ituna' is the name of a small town in Canada.
"The Ituna Community School is a primary school serving 450 orphaned and vulnerable children in a township called Racecourse, on the outskirts of Kitwe, Zambia.The school was set up by the local community to provide education for children who cannot afford to attend state school."
Whose idea was it?
The school was the local communities idea. When there was a bout of privatisation many people lost their jobs in the local community and could no longer afford to send their children to school. The school was registered as a 'community school' with the Education department in 2001.
The idea for the project came from a group of 12 friends all based in Sheffield. We knew each other through University and through a local Church. We planned a trip to Zambia and asked a friend in Kitwe to find something practical for us to do and people whom we could serve. In the summer of 2005 we spent 2 weeks at the school teaching the children and helping out. It was while we were doing this and on our way home, we prayed about whether we should have a longer term commitment to helping the school and its children.
When did you start?
On our return home from our trip we didn't set up the project straight away. We allowed the initial enthusiam to wain and had 2 meetings to discuss what we were committed to doing. It was at this time we wrote our 'Mission Statement'. We incorporated as an association and registered as a UK Charity in 2006.
Our mission statement is:-
"To empower Ituna Community School, Kitwe, Zambia, to develop a self-sustaining educational facility which
positively impacts the future lives of the children and wider community."
How do you raise your funds?
We have various income sources. We currently have 24 individuals, couples, and Churches giving money monthly to help support the running of the school. We have been supported by fund-raising events from a number of UK Schools, private individuals and churches, as well as donations from UK businesses and Grant Making Trusts.
How can Kitwe residents contribute to your work?
Residents in Kitwe who are interested in helping with the school would be best contacting the school directly themselves. While our Charity is set up to support the school we do not own or run the school. The community has an elected committee that oversees the school and its development and they take the final decisions on what happens at their community school.
How do you decide who to help?
When we set up the Charity project our aims and objectives are very much focused on helping the orphans and vulnerable children in the Racecourse area of Kitwe. A child and their family is accessed by the school before being enrolled. We have included objectives that include the wider community in the area but so far haven't had funding to extend our reach.
At what stage do you consider your work done with each child?
As a project we don't focus on particular children. Rather we seek to enable and support the school and community to see each child reach their full potential. As a project our work will be done when the school is locally self financing, fully built, and thriving.
Photos courtesy of Ituna Schools Project
How many members of staff do you have in Kitwe?
We have no members of staff in Kitwe. We have no staff in the UK as we have no employees. We are all volunteers working for no financial reward. We have very low running costs and approximately 97% of the money donated to our project goes directly to the school and helping the children.
How are teachers recruited?
You will need to ask the head master about teacher recruitment.
How are staff accommodated?
you will need to ask the head master about staff accommodation. The project has enough regular monthly income to pay teachers a nominal amount each month. However, this isn't enough and not a fully salary. We would like very much one day to have the funds to build some staff housing, but that is currently a distant dream.
What is the best way of contacting Ituna?
email@example.com is the email address of the school. The Headmaster mobile number is 7669254 (I think!) – from the UK we use a 10p a minute line, the whole number being: 08719997171 – 00-260-97-7669254
Who is the contact person in Kitwe?
The headmaster – Mr Derick Mulenga
What volunteer opportunities are there for those interested?
That would have to be negotiated and agreed with the school and committee there.
Regarding the Ituna Community Project we are still seeking an auditor and book keeper in Kitwe who can help the school in accounting and book keeping.
Is there a screening process for those chosen to work with the children?
You will need to contact the school directly regarding this.
Do you work with any of the other charities in Kitwe?
Not currently. But we are happy to if we have something in common. We have brief contact with the Rotary Club and 41ers, but they haven't been in touch recently.
Do you work with people from other faiths?
Yes. People of all faiths, so long as they abide by our constitution.
What do you consider to be your greatest success so far?
What our greatest success would vary from person to person, depending on whom you asked. Many would say the moving of the school into a new building in February 2010. Some would point to children who have progressed to secondary school are a result and are thriving. Others may point to the teachers who are being trained.
What is the greatest challenge you face in carrying out your mission?
Fund-raising is never easy and with the economic climate worsening it isn't getting easier. The Charity is run by volunteers who have families and jobs to go to. So finding time for the project is always a fight. The distance of a few thousand miles and a different culture always makes communication more challenging and at times a recipe for misunderstanding. Although over the years we have developed a good working partnership with the school and community.
What are some of the projects lined up for the near future?
The toilet blocks aren't plumbed in yet and are being used as a nursery for the younger children currently. We are raising money for 2 new class rooms so the nursery age children can be moved there, and the toilet blocks completed. We have raised £11,000 (K88m) of the £30,000 (K240m) needed for this.
Do you have any message for Kitweonline visitors and Kitwe residents in general?
The headmaster is always happy to show visitors around the school and show what progress has been made in the past few years. Also what still needs to be done! So please feel free to contact him and the school.
Thank you for your interest!