Not even worries about the harvest will douse these students’ desire to learn in Zambia.

Mary Stokes
Mary Stokes
Communications officer, Malawi

Back to all stories | Posted on 29 May 18 in Zoom Into Zambia

Bouncing along the pot-holed and rain-washed dirt track to Kasamanda School in the rural Mnoro region of eastern Zambia, I keep having the same two thoughts: 
1. I’m glad it’s not me in the driver’s seat. 
2. This area is incredibly rural. 
Out here, subsistence farming is the main means of survival for most households, with maize, cotton, and groundnuts growing in the fields surrounding each village we pass. 
We are coming to the end of what is known as ‘the lean season,’ – or the final months before the harvest. By now, the crops are almost done growing, and yet, there is still a sense of worry in the air.  
This year, the rains haven’t been good for farmers on either side of the Malawi-Zambian border. An extended dry season in December and January, combined with heavy rains in late March, has left many households worried about the viability of the crops they have been tending over the past five months.  
“The situation is not good,” says mother-of-eight, Kathleen. “We have planted maize, cotton and groundnuts, but things didn’t go as planned. The rains have not been good.” 
The next few months are likely to be a struggle for Kathleen and her sons, and other families like them. But scratch below the surface and there is an undeniable glimmer of hope which refuses to be put out.  
Is it the hope of change that is on the way?

Since the Free Basic Education policy was enacted in Zambia in 2002, school enrolment has gradually increased, and in these rural villages, parents like Kathleen, who didn’t have the chance to attend school themselves, are actively encouraging their children to go to school.   
“It’s important for them to go to school because they need to learn. I hope they complete their education and stay on at school,” she adds. 
Education is the key to a brighter future, and those in the village who have finished school are often held in high esteem by children and adults alike – a feeling which is echoed in the sheer number of children I meet, who share with me their wish to be part of the next generation of teachers. 
But they won’t make the most of their education if they are too hungry to learn. So, Mary’s Meals is supporting these children on their journey with its unchanging promise of a nutritious meal in their place of education every school day.  
Five-year-old Esther is just one of these students.  
“Porridge makes me feel good,” she tells me confidently. “It gives me lots of energy, which means I do well in class.”