By Laura Ruggles.

IMG_7101As part of our internship, Lynsey, Jack, and I have been visiting Taonga radio schools around Chikuni Parish to learn more about radio education. The Ministry of Education in Zambia created a radio program called Learning at Taonga Market that offers an alternative form of education to scores of children across Zambia and hopefully work towards completing the Millennium Development Goal of universal education for all. The radio programs offer different curriculum-based lessons to students, covering a variety of subjects. These lessons are led by a mentor—someone who can lead the lesson, but who is not necessarily a trained, government teacher.

As we have been visiting these schools over the past four weeks, I have been reflecting a lot on my own education. In the 16 years of my schooling, I’ve been incredibly blessed by all the adults who have taught, mentored, coached, and inspired me along the way. It’s safe to say I wouldn’t be where I am today without their support and encouragement. I think the same is true for many of the young Zambian students I have encountered. It is the teachers and mentors offering support and encouragement to them who make all the difference in the education of these students.

I found two such inspiring mentors at the Taonga radio school in the village of Munyona. Attractor Hakalumba, the Grade 4 mentor, has been working as a mentor for two years. Her fellow mentor, Hippo Lackson Chinyaka, has been a mentor for three years and is currently teaching Grade 6. Like the other Taonga mentors in Chikuni who are not government trained teachers, they do not receive a salary from the government. Every single mentor I’ve interviewed has said they depend on some other source of income to support their families. Yet, these incredible women and men are dedicated to helping provide an education that might be otherwise unobtainable for many of their students.

I had to opportunity to sit down and talk with Mrs. Hakalumba and Mr. Chinyaka. They told me about how they and their students enjoyed listening to the Taonga broadcast on their solar and wind-up Lifeline radios.

I was interested to find out what motivated them, so I posed to them: “Why do you want to be a mentor?” Immediately, Mrs. Hakalumba responded with, “To help the community, especially the younger chaps.” Mr. Chinyaka was also able to answer almost immediately. “We want to help the children. There are some learners who are orphans, and we have to help those orphans. They don’t have parents – both sides, mother and father -so we have to help them.”

Despite various challenges that these mentors face, they love coming to school each day to be with their students. Mr. Chinyaka enjoys coaching students in football and netball when not in class. Mrs. Hakalumba says, “I like playing and singing with the children.”

Like all the people who have helped to shape me over the years, these mentors are having a positive impact on all the children in their classes. I feel honored to have met them, and look forward to hearing more about how they and the other Taonga mentors have touched the lives of their students.