Eleven-year-old Mapalo Tembo is always looking forward to being in school. “I like school because in class we learn and sing and play with toys,” Tembo said.
For the past four months, Tembo has been attending school, and her confidence levels have greatly improved, her family said. Tembo, who is from Mporokoso, a town in northern Zambia is one of the many children that have benefited from a school that exists to render educational support to children with cancer.
The school, which is located within the cancer diseases hospital at Zambia’s University Teaching Hospital, is an initiative of Twende Education for All, a non-profit organization that provides educational support to vulnerable children in Zambia. It was established in 2016.
The learning space is well equipped with educational materials and toys and is a favorite spot for many children at the cancer diseases hospital as it offers them a chance to forget about their challenges and pain and focus on enjoying the moment. “The children love this space so much that they become sad when school day ends,” said Jessy Zulu, one of the teachers.
Zulu revealed that all children at the school are currently receiving treatment.According to Andrea Mwalula, the founder and CEO of Twende, the idea of starting a school at the health facility was arrived at after it was established that many children that were in the hospital for longer periods missed out on school. “We believe that children, regardless of their condition, have the right to quality education.
It is for this reason that Twende decided to set up a school for children receiving cancer treatment, many of whom come from far-flung areas,” explained Mwalula. She added that Twende also runs another school for children with sickle cell anemia within University Teaching Hospital, Zambia’s largest referral hospital.
The organization also runs empowerment programs for mothers of children admitted at the cancer diseases hospital to help supplement their livelihoods as most of them come from low-income communities.”The mothers receive training in handmade jewelry making.
The idea is to ensure that they have sustainable sources of income which they can rely on even after they leave the hospital,” Mwalula said.
Norah Chisha, a mother of one of the children receiving treatment at the cancer diseases hospital said the school keeps children busy and active, adding that it is helping children to have something to look forward to every day.Chisha, a resident of Lusaka observed that the initiative by Twende is not only helping children to have access to quality education but also contributing to the wellbeing of caregivers.
“It is a great initiative that is not only helping children with cancers but also their families as it is working to lessen the pain and burden endured by both the survivors and caregivers,” she said.