Retrospect Wytze Bouma
On June 5, 2009 I left for Zambia with dad, uncle Herman and Johannes de Jong, for a period of 6 weeks. Construction in Zambia is quite simple in itself. Walls are built from homemade cement blocks. Wooden trusses are placed on top of which purlins are placed with steel corrugated sheets as roof covering. In the case of the school, a chipboard ceiling has also been installed. Steel frames are used for the windows and doors. Heating is not necessary (although it can be quite cold early in the morning). An electrical installation has been installed in the school. Because the power fails regularly, a kind of back-up system has also been made with batteries that can take over the power supply for a few hours. In addition to the four men from the Netherlands, the construction team consisted mainly of local construction workers (sometimes as many as 15 men). Communication is mainly in English. Because Zambia used to be an English colony and a lot of different languages are spoken in the area, English was established as the official primal language after independence. The cooperation with the Zambians was good in itself. I only noticed that the ambition to make something good or beautiful is often lacking. People do their job but don’t feel the need to do it just that little bit better. Sometimes you also discover that you understood each other less well than you thought. If you ask a Zambian to start on the right because it is more convenient for the planning, he will say ‘no problem’ and then start on the left. In general, the construction workers have little or no tools and have had almost no training. The masons do have their own trowels and a spirit level, but it almost stops there. The grout is prepared with the shovel. If there is no water again, water is collected from the river with large barrels. Because we have a car, this is quite simple, but in other cases the work simply stops. Everything shows that Zambia is a poor country. There is very little work and it is difficult for many people to provide for the bare necessities of life. This, in my opinion, largely explains the somewhat casual attitude towards the quality of the work that is being delivered. If you don’t have the money to buy food, you don’t really care that the frame is skewed or the door won’t close. In addition, many Zambians still live in very poor huts with clay walls and thatched roofs. There is often not even a door here, let alone a door that wants to close! Due to lack of money, second-choice materials are often used. The Chinese in particular import a lot to Africa. For 80 euros you can buy a new bicycle (which is a lot of money for a Zambian), but if you just look at it, it almost falls apart. (A Zambian construction worker earns about 0.45 euros per hour, there is no unemployment benefit and generally no pension is accrued) Most people have no money for a bicycle, let alone a car. There is therefore a lot of walking. Because water mains is not available everywhere (often no water comes out of the tap), people walk for miles to the pump or the river to get water. This is a job for the women, who are generally much more active than the men. It is unbelievable how much weight the women can carry on the head. In addition, they often have a child on their back or in the stomach, or both. During a walk in the Kaoma area, we went to a primary school. This school consists of 8 classrooms (very suterich) and there are about 1100 children in the school. Because they do not all fit in the classrooms at the same time, classes are taught part-time. Some of the students come in the morning and some in the afternoon. The schools are partly funded by the government, but because resources are limited, another part must also be provided by the local population. Although the schools are already overcrowded, there are also many children who do not go to school because the parents cannot afford it. In addition, it is still common for girls of 13/14 years old to be taken out of school to be married off. The parents then receive a small dowry and have lost the care of a child. If you look around it, it quickly becomes clear that the problems in a country like Zambia, despite the fairly stable political situation, are very serious. Nor do I have the impression that we can solve these problems quickly. But you have to start somewhere and education is important in my opinion to make people aware of the possibilities and opportunities that exist. It can also help women in particular to improve their currently subordinate position to men. I look back on my stay in Zambia with great pleasure. I have experienced the act with the people as very pleasant. Building a better future together, even if only a little, feels good. I have also felt at home from the start. Of course you miss home, but you will get a whole new experience in return. It is also good that you are put with both feet on the ground. Everything is self-evident here in the Netherlands. You have a house, you go to school and there is food. In Zambia you find out that there are still many people who do not have this privilege. Back in the Netherlands, I soon got back into the rhythm. But the beautiful memory of Zambia remains.
Retrospect Johannes de Jong
Zambia; What a country and what beautiful, but above all, friendly people. Building a small school together with the Bouma’s and Zambian builders in 6 weeks is quite an experience. Contrary to what we are used to: everything with manpower under primitive circumstances and with limited resources. Then the result and satisfaction are all the greater. I am therefore pleased that we have been able to realize this together for these people. The people who have to get by with very little and be satisfied. Despite everything, they are happy people and always smile. The collaboration with the Zambian electrician Eude was perfect and pleasant. We have learned a lot from each other. The plumber Jonathan was also friendly and easy-going. As for myself: I am very satisfied that I have been able to do something for these people and I came home with a very good feeling. Worth repeating.
28 March 2020