Recurrent floods swamp Zambezi Region

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MUZII/MPUKANO - Over 100 Grade 10 learners and others from Muzii and Nankuntwe combined schools have been relocated to Katima Mulilo to continue their schooling, following persistent flooding that has inundated classrooms turning the schools into virtual swamps.

Mpukano Primary School in the eastern flood plains of the Zambezi Region, which is also heavily affected, has been closed for a period of one month to allow the flood waters to subside. Although this year’s flooding has been described as mild compared to previous years, the water level of the Zambezi River reached 6 metres a week ago compared to 4.48 metres during the corresponding period last year. Schools reopened last week with the expectation that flood waters would have subsided significantly, but what awaited learners and the teaching staff was the complete opposite. According to Ignatius Kawana, acting principal of Muzii Combined School, which has the highest number of affected learners, it is the first time the school has experienced recuring floods this time of the year since the floods of 2010 and 2011.

He says teaching and learning activities have been affected negatively, with sanitation posing the biggest challenge since the reopening of the school. “This was unpredictable, we thought we would find the water levels to have gone down. The whole front part of the school is under water, including the toilets. As you can see human waste is just floating in the water. To go to the toilet you have to get into a canoe. The learning environment has been affected adversely,” he said.

The school grounds of the three schools are waterlogged, which has resulted in a serious lack of space. At Muzii the furniture and bedding of teachers is kept on the veranda of the school due to the lack of proper storage space. At Nankuntwe only two classrooms are available for learners making it impossible for them to continue with their daily lessons. Kabbe constituency councillor, Raphael Mbala, said the water level is still rising and after visiting the affected schools parents and teachers agreed that closing the schools entirely is the only option for the time being or at least until the water has subsided substantially. “For the past three days the water has been rising rapidly. We looked at the situation and found that teachers’ houses are not habitable. When we visited the schools parents and teachers requested us to close the schools temporarily for at least two weeks or to be relocated to a place where learning can continue unhindered,” Mbala told this reporter.

Zambezi regional coordinator of the Flood Task Team, Robert Mapenzi, said the schools were closed officially yesterday for a period of one month, except for Grades 7 and 10 to allow the water levels to subside substantially. “The water level has been dropping since it rose up to 6 metres on the 13th of May. We hope in a month’s time, the water would have dropped significantly,” Mapenzi told New Era. The relocated learners will be accommodated at Chesire Home, a charity organisation on the eastern outskirts of Katima Mulilo. Education Director in the region, Austin Samupwa, however said Chesire Home might not be able to accommodate all learners and suggested that a site adjacent to the establishment be identified to pitch up tents and to allow for double learning sessions. “Chesire Home might not have the capacity to accommodate over 100 learners. A site should be identified where tents can be pitched. We can run a double session for learners as classrooms are fully utilised,” said Samupwa. From Saturday until Sunday learners and their teachers were conveyed by the Kapelwa Kabajani ferry to Katima Mulilo. The Zambezi Regional Council also dispatched a fleet of vehicles to pick up some of the staff, who had used the Mwandi route in Zambia to travel to Katima Mulilo. Although not as severe, other schools that are affected include Namiyundu, Ivilivinzi and Masikili. The water level during the month of May this year reached the six metre mark last week, compared to the levels of 6.55 and 6.18 metres respectively during floods of 2010 and 2011.

By George Sanzila