In 1995, Melvin Moonga arrived at his new post as teacher of the school in Mukupi, a poor rural community in Zambia. The “school” was little more than a dust-floored shack with no furniture, no teaching materials, and 80 students.
Shocked by the situation he found himself in, Melvin asked the secretary of the District Education Board how he was expected to survive at such a school and was told it was simply up to him “to make Mukupi your home through innovations.” Melvin remembers biking back to Mukupi trying to figure out what to do with this advice. “I was convinced I could do it, to make Mukupi my home. I started by organising the Parent Teacher Association, and we managed to put up a two-classroom block. This saw an increase in the number of children coming to school.”
Demand for the school kept on rising but unfortunately the facilities couldn’t keep up. This meant that students were not learning effectively, grades stayed low, drop-out rates high, and teacher turnover was high because there was no accommodation for the teachers who had to move to the remote community to work in the school.
Luckily, at this time Melvin and his community found a partnership with ChildFund New Zealand, an international NGO who stepped up to raise the funds to renovate and develop the school.
Today, the Mukupi school has been transformed into a well-built educational complex consisting of 7 classrooms, a pre-school, a fully stocked library, toilet blocks, borehole, and has a staff of 9 teachers and a role of 800 students! Best of all, the students are achieving an 80% pass rate (previously as low as 20%). Melvin is head teacher at the school and affectionately known as Mr Mukupi. He has also been recognised for his leadership qualities and taken part in an international teacher training programme known as ATLAS where he has learnt how to actively engage children in their own learning. Melvin reflects, “I used to be like a bus driver, just driving the students where I thought they should go. Now I have stepped back and joined the passengers and we are all on the journey together.”
A friend of mine, Sally, knows Melvin personally. Read a recent blog Sally wrote about Melvin and Mukupi. You can also watch a short 2 minute news story about Mukupi and see the transformation with your own eyes! It’s a heart warmer.
Melvin is an inspiration because, when faced with real adversity, he kept moving forward. As a result, hundreds of children in the community around Mukupi now have access to quality education. Who knows where that will take them, but the future is surely brighter due to the dedication of Mr Mukupi.