Most long time readers will know that Gesthmane Mwizabi is undoubtedly my favourite Zambian journalist (alongside the meticulous Doreen Nawa). I read everything Mwizabi writes! He has recently been writing in the Times of Zambia on the situation in my childhood town of Nchelenge and surrounding villages. Here is an excerpt from his piece on Kilwa Island (an isolated island on Lake Mweru) :
"...There are plenty of poor people in the world who would gladly make use of that food and clothes which you have discarded. A lot of them are not far away. They are right close to us.While the new generation is deeply engulfed in a “wow” culture with its brags obsessive idols of consumerism; chicken and chips, designer clothes and perfumes, latest cars and gadgets and so forth, a visit to Kilwa Island would break your heart in two.There is no electricity or a single car on the island. What you find are snaking tracks that lead to grass thatched houses of a people who hardly have three meals a day. Scenes of innocent children and youths playing in ripped off clothes are a common sight. Goats, cats, dogs and chicken live in harmony. Compared to mainland Zambia, the island is 50 years behind..."
"...Teacher’s houses are nothing to write home about. Just a mud thatched house, with a worn out and broken door. When it is pay day, the teachers on the only two schools on the island, Kilwa and Lukwesa go to Nchelenge to access their pay. Sometimes they stay in Nchelenge for a month leaving pupils alone.As a matter of fact, the time I visited the island, two schools had closed because teachers, somewhat abandoned the place. This was a huge complaint by islanders, who feel neglected and they were candid about their problems to District Commissioner. The absentee teachers had continued drawing salaries something that annoyed Mr Chakaba. “We don’t know how we are going to pass our exams. Our teachers have run away,” said Mpundu Dickson, a Grade 9 pupil at Lukwesa, which has 800 pupils...."
Pieces such as these help us see vividly why poverty statistics in urban areas are quoted at 40%, whilst in rural areas such as Kilwa its more than 90%. The scale facing our country is huge indeed. We need more journalists like Gesthmane Mwizabi to really lift the lid on the income disparities in our country.
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Chola Mukanga | Economist | Writer
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