Educating Zambia: Alicia Shanks and Simon Humphreys go on a school visit

22 November 2017
Manchester teachers , Simon Humpreys and Alicia Shanks with two students, Cheese, 15 and Agrina, 15, at the Njola East Community school in the Monze district of Zambia. WaterAid/Tom Pilston

Two teachers featured in hit Channel 4 documentary Educating Greater Manchester, taught at a school in rural Zambia to see the challenges they face when access to clean water and sanitation is a daily struggle…

We took Alicia Shanks and Simon Humphreys from the modern facilities of Harrop Fold School in Salford to Njola East Community School in Zambia to see how school life compared as part of our Untapped appeal.

Njola East has no running water or toilets. Their only facilities are two filthy latrines with missing doors, shared by over 180 children. Students fetch water from a pump located over two kilometres away, cutting out vital time in their education. Students defecate in the bush which spreads disease, and are therefore often miss classes because of illness. Girls who have reached puberty often skip school during their periods because of the total lack of privacy.

Alicia and Simon worked alongside Zambian teacher Mwene Susan, learning for themselves how challenging it can be for teachers to educate children in schools that lack these fundamental facilities. Walking the two kilometres with the students to the pump, the teachers were aghast at the strength needed to make this journey – sometimes more than once a day. Simon said:

We walked to the pump with the students and really struggled in the sweltering heat – the water was so heavy that I could barely lift the jerry cans that small children carry every day.

Alicia was shocked by how much of a difference water makes in education:

The students I met at Njola East were often too dehydrated to concentrate in class and constantly tired from the daily burden of collecting water.

Manchester teachers , Simon Humpreys and Alicia Shanks walk 2 km to collect water with students from the Njola East Community school in the Monze district of Zambia. 23/10/17 Photo Tom Pilston.WaterAid/Tom Pilston
Alicia Shanks and Simon Humphreys try and lift the buckets and jerry cans of water that Njola East students carry every day

Sadly, this is not a unique problem. Across the world, 3 in 10 schools don't have clean water, and 1 in 3 don't have decent toilets. You can change that.