Good afternoon from a hot and sticky Lusaka!! I hope you are all well.
In the last email I wrote I told you about a few problems with school and boys fighting so to update you on that...
Don and the boys involved in the fighting were summoned to the local court. This ended up in Don having to give the woman who took him there some money. (Not a large amount) Don admitted there had been an argument and tradition means you have to give the other person a token to resolve the situation. After that had been settled the judge turned to the woman and told her off very sternly. She had no right to take Don to court as they had started he problems, if Don had taken her she would be looking at a much larger fine etc. Since then we have heard nothing more from her or any of the other people involved. Although we see them on the road the boys have either made there peace with them or ignore them.
The situation with school continues to rumble on. Christine, Mr Banda and myself have had a series of meetings with the lady in charge at Lusaka East and all came to the same conclusion. She is able to talk lots of words without answering questions and she says she is working hard but has little to show for what she is doing. 2 weeks ago she sent home Ackim. Christine and I were going out when he was walking home so knew there had been some kind of problem. When we got back he came to the kitchen to tell us. Mrs Chihana had told him off for hanging around in the door way of the classroom instead of studying. He was asked to pick up litter so asked if he wasn't allowed to take a 5 minute break from studying. At that she told him to get his bag and go home. He wasn't to go back to school without someone. On the day it happened Ackim had only had 2 lessons out of 8 because of the shortage of teachers! The next day I went with him to school and was told Ackim is rude, obnoxious and has no respect for authority. Ackim is the opposite of that! He is a quiet, polite, kind boy. If she had been talking about lots of the others I would have believed her, but not Ackim! Anyway she didn't want to decide on a punishment but Ackim had already decided he wanted to drop a year (he was in grade 11) and start grade 10 at Tina Trust school where some of the others go. (He is changing exam courses which is why he needed to drop back) so I bought him home. Later on the same day Wisdom had a fight. When Mrs Chihana was called he decided to come home before she got there. He spent a long time talking and acknowledged that he was the one to start the fight and he shouldn't have done it. He had been being provoked by this other boy for a few weeks and the teacher seemed to have done nothing about it. The other boy had bitten Wisdom through his shirt and t-shirt and drawn blood. Although Wisdom didn't hang around to receive the punishment for his behaviour the other boy was told never to fight again and sent back to class. We somehow think Wisdom wouldn't have got away with that! On the Saturday she sent a note home with one of the boys saying that Wisdom and Ackim were not to go back to school again. This was the last straw. Some of the other comments she had made showed that she didn't like 'our boys' and she grouped them all together as troublemakers. So on Monday we kept the boys at home. Christine went to meet her to tell her. Initially in the meeting she went on about Ackim, Wisdom, 'your boys' and me, then when Christine told her we would remove the boys because they were causing her so many problems she tried backtracking, obviously realising we made up a significant proportion of the school.
All of that resulted in having 17 at home for school last week. 1 each in grades 2-6, 6 in grade7, one in grade 8 then the others who I usually have and are not working on grades. It has been quite chaotic but an interesting experience! As of today we have a teacher who is coming to take the grade 7s. She will also take the grade 6 as he will hopefully be able to skip. (He was only in grade 4 last year so has already skipped one grade but was still getting over 90% on most of his weekly tests. This will reduce the number I have back to 7 as a couple of the others are the girls who are hopefully going to put into another school.
Another sequence of event that helped us decide removing them from school was the only option we had was finding out some of them were smoking Dagga. (Cannabis) We were told about this a few weeks ago. On the way home from school they were stopping to smoke. It is very hard to tell (apart from the behaviour) if they have been smoking. After the tip off we were able to pick out the boys who were doing it and usually when they were. Most days! We were also able to ask a couple of the boys who we were sure wernt involved and they were quick to confirm our suspicions of who and when they were doing it. If the boys had been caught at school we were very worried about what Mrs Chihana would do. Anyway they didn't know that we were aware of what was going on until Mr Banda asked them directly. They admitted quite quickly what had been going on. This surprised us! Since then we have had to deal with symptoms of withdrawal from most of the boys involved. Watching them going through withdrawal is difficult, they feel achy, cold, moody etc and cant see the point in carrying on. Two have come saying they might as well leave now, one saying whats the point of his life he should just end it. Its really difficult and although they are the ones who got themselves in that situation you feel so sorry for them. A couple haven't shown any signs, including one who we think is the main user so we are wondering if he is managing to get some from somewhere. (The gate is kept locked but we have people who come for work) Just before we found out about them using Christine heard about an American, a drug and alcohol councillor, who is working here for at least 6 months. He was happy to come to the farm to start working with some of our boys. He came yesterday for the first time and the boys seemed to like him. He told all of the boys his story which is very sad and includes being abandoned at the age of 6, adoption, drug and alcohol use, rehab, relapse, (a few times over) then going to a christian rehabilitation centre and managing to beat his addictions as he realised his problems were deeper than just the substance abuse. The boys were all very interested. They couldnt believe it could happen to a white person. He also spent some time with the 6 who have been using. He is going to come every week to meet with them and help them. It is amazing that he is out here just when we need him! He arrived in Lusaka 2 weeks ago so we will be able to use him for the whole 6 months or so that he is here.
On the lawyer front we have also had some good news. Kelvin Bwalya, the lawyer who was threatening Don with court action and trying to bribe lots of money out of him, has been suspended by the lawyers association of Zambia. His law firm has also been closed down. This is a great piece of news, a real answer to prayer! We had long ago decided it would take a miracle or an accident to stop him! It doesn't mean it is the end of the case though as someone will have to take over his work load. That will probably be a long process and we don't know who is going to do it. Hopefully they wont be as corrupt as Bwalya.
I have just received a text from Christine to say she has got the registration certificate. That is the first stage of us being officially registered. It has taken since May last year. Now the certificate has to go to Social Welfare and we have it on good authority that the process should be straight forward there... we will believe that when it happens!
Thank you for all of your emails and messages.