A shortage of desks posed a challenge for Chibombo Boarding Secondary School – especially in light of COVID-19 and the need to social distance. The school reached out to the FutureLife-Now! Programme for assistance. But the request was not for ready-made desks. Instead, it was for wood, metal and paint – the materials needed to build their own desks.

Built in 1986, Chibombo Boarding Secondary School is one of the oldest boarding schools in Zambia. Initially accommodating 300 learners, the school’s popularity has grown in leaps and bounds. Situated in the central part of the Chibombo District, near the Great North Road, the school attracts a lot of learners and current demand means that it caters for approximately 1 200 learners .

It is no surprise then that Chibombo Boarding Secondary faced many challenges in terms of infrastructure, including a shortage of desks. The coronavirus pandemic, and the requirement of social distancing, meant that the need for desks became even more urgent.

The desk building project has been a resounding success. In 2021 the school received the materials through the FutureLife-Now! programme. Learners were actively involved in making the desks under the guidance of the teachers from the practical subject’s department and they developed skills in metal fabrication and carpentry.

A sea of desks: To date learners at Chibombo Boarding Secondary School have built 108 single desks

To date, 108 single desks have been built, and new window frames have been constructed. Learners have acquired new skills, especially female learners who would not usually be given the opportunity to learn something that is generally seen as “boys work”.

Head Teacher Raphael Mbewe is very proud of the fact that girl learners were involved. “Yes, our girl learners were a target since girls are also taking design and technology, hence they were included in the desk making project,” he said. “Girls were keen from the beginning as they had been looking forward to practicing what they had been learning.

“Our message is: ‘What boys can do, girls can do’. Girls also need the skills which can help them in future.”

Memory Nachalwe, a grade 12 pupil, said, “Metal fabrication, carpentry and joinery has helped me to acquire skills such as making desks and fabricating window frames. These skills will help me after completing school as I can enter into entrepreneurship business.” She added that the most difficult aspect was cutting the metals according to specifications. “The most enjoyable aspect was welding.”

Amos Liyali, a grade 10 pupil and school board member, said: “FutureLife-Now! programmes are showing us that our future starts now. Hence we have learnt skills that will help us prepare our future. Learning to make desks motivated me to take time doing certain things in life, especially things that involve the commitment of time, effort and emotion. In the end, this gives us life-long skills.”

Eustus Manya, a grade 10 pupil, said, “The skills I acquired during this project will help me start up an entrepreneurship business which will help me earn a living without depending on a job. This contributes to the economic development of the nation.”


To subscribe to the FutureLife -Now! quarterly newsletter email bashni@miet.co.za
Not Enough Desks? Build Your Own! || Learners Empowered with Woodworking Skills at Chibombo Secondary