By: Sr Agnes Bwalya, school administrator
The two severe weather events which happened at St Mary’s Special School have left a great impact on me, (Sr Agnes) the administrator, my staff and the blind children who study and live at our school. I can’t understand how God saved the lives of all our children and staff, for me it is a miracle.
The first time It was around 12:15 hrs on the 24th of September 2022, on Saturday, when strong winds came and blew off the roof. Four pupils were in the dining room arranging plates for lunch. In no time the girls’ dining roof was blown off. Pupils screamed and one male cook ran to rescue them. He then heard another big sound, which meant the boy’s dining hall roof had blown off. Mr. Leonard the cook was confused, but he managed to run with the pupils.
Hooo! Hooo! I saw the roof had blown off!
The second disaster happened on the 18th of November 2022, when we experienced heavy rains with huge hailstones falling and very strong winds. Grade nine pupils were in class studying and myself and three teachers we were busy writing reports. The rains were so heavy that no one could run through it. A strong gust of wind was heard and in a short time light was seen through the office roof. I immediately realized that pupils are studying for their final examinations in the next room. I rushed and others rushed and the pupils were rescued. We were all soaked like anything.
After a good two hours, the rains stopped and we experienced some sunshine. School books and supplies were picked up and put in the library and other classrooms that were not affected. The last room I entered was the grade nine class. I looked in horror and disbelief at their subject notes on special Brailon papers. They were soaked! These notes are written on Brailon or Braille papers which are a bit thick, but when in contact with water or moisture, the embossed dots become flat and cannot be felt using fingers.
Now trouble came, the exams were on the 24th of November. The question was, “How can we replace the reading materials?” The staff and pupils actually cried many tears!!!! Pupils were disturbed, everyone was speechless. What next? Teachers organized themselves and made a new time table to coach the pupils. Teachers were working up to 18 hrs a day including Saturdays and Sundays until the end of the examinations. To me it was a clear sign of unconditional Love.
Pupils now are in the different world with the following challenges:
- Distance– it is now a challenge for the cooks to carry food from the kitchen and distribute it to children. This means our timetable had to change to accommodate the location of the cafeteria space. Blind children sometimes have their precious food fall off their plate as they walk because they hit into another person. Every meal is confusion with children crying for their fallen food.
2.Sun sensitivity: since the dining hall is unsafe the children must now eat outside in the bright sun. Albino children are sun sensitive as it hurts their eyes and burns their skin because of their lack of melanin.
3.Wind: the wind also affects the children and causes their eyes to cry because of the sun and dust blowing in the courtyard. Their tears fall uncontrollably, which was very painful, unhygienic and very disturbing… these poor innocent souls.
4.Mobility issues: Children with additional disabilities suffer much because they require more assistance. The working staff rota had to be changed because more help was needed to assist those with additional mobility needs.
- Rains- The rains which started in the month of October make the whole situation much more serious. If someone is near, looking at this situation their tears will be flowing as they see blind children looking for a place to put her/his plate full of food, or witnessing the falling of the food off the plate!
A Student by the name of Gershom Mwansa, a grade nine pupil was saved as an iron sheet flew through the air. He fell down and the iron sheet flew over him. He could not sleep well for weeks because of nightmares. We ended up asking for one teacher to keep him at her home for some days until he felt more secure and confident.
All of us are grateful that no life was lost. As administration, we even asked for a blessing from our priest. Really it has been days of mediation. All staff and children praise the greatness of God’s love and mercy for sparing the children from death or injury.
The situation where the students must eat outside is a huge challenge. Our solution is to increase the number of staff on duty and to extend the working hours even on weekends. Caregivers or house parents are working day and night and teachers on duty for many extra hours. The situation is not ok.
[Note: It is important to remember these events happened at a school for the blind, where storms of this magnitude would be especially terrifying.]
Today the class has no braille text books for pupils or teachers. How will learning and teaching take place in 2023? Our situation is very grave.
Asking and begging for people with good will to come to our aid.
Come and be my security in this difficult moment, I am looking for a solution so that the situation can come back to normal. God bless our supporters at Chalice and Inverness County Cares. We appreciate everything you do for us.
Inverness County Cares (ICC) is a local charitable organization, founded in 2012 and based in Inverness County, NS, Canada. ICC works in partnership with Chalice.ca, a Canadian charity, based in Bedford, Nova Scotia. Chalice provides guidance and assistance to help us provide a better life for the children at the Kawambwa schools. The Kawambwa Project involves supporting two schools for albino and visually impaired students, in Northern Zambia. Inverness County Cares always welcomes new members. Individuals who wish to donate, can use the donate button on our website https://invernesscountycares.com When using E-transfer, please include your mailing address for CRA tax receipts and a thank you message. E-transfer address: [email protected] or send a cheque to Inverness County Cares, 5414 Route 19, Judique, NS, Canada, B0E1P0. Taxation receipts provided for USA and Canada.