Books bring hope and faith to Zambian school

Last Updated on 12 October 2023 by Ann-Marie Nye

An idea to bring a few books on a trip to Zambia to celebrate the opening of a new school library has exceeded expectations.

For the flight, members of Cumnor United Reformed Church (URC) in Oxford had hoped to take an extra suitcase full of books but couldn’t after an appeal to the congregation and community resulted in 4,000 being donated.

Drawing on Cumnor’s ecumenical connections, professional help has been obtained with sorting and classifying the books, and negotiations are in hand to have them shipped to Zambia.

The trip in September was to celebrate the opening of Hope and Faith Christian Community School’s new building after £500,000 was donated through Cumnor URC to help create a new library (to be used by the school and community at large), two training rooms for catering and tailoring, three classes for the senior grade, an IT suite, toilets and showers, a sports hall, additional classrooms and adult education training rooms to add to the school’s existing facilities. A new kitchen and dining hall for 300 people was also built and is powered by solar energy.

The building, the work of which was planned and delivered in partnership between Cumnor and Zambian colleagues, was formally opened on 9 September and is expected to be in full use by the school in October.

The church and school have been working together since 2005. The school is in one of Lusaka’s most deprived neighbourhoods and the church has helped with a variety of initiatives from providing a daily meal to the 500+ pupils to bursaries for trade and higher education for former students.

However, the relationship between them began in 2003 when Rosemary Mumbi rented a small house in Ng’ombe, a shanty compound in the capital city of Zambia and started a school with two pupils.

The Revd Nigel Appleton, Associate Minister of the church, said: “As numbers grew each year, another academic year or ‘grade’ was added, the school continued to grow in numbers and ambition.

“A milestone was reached when teaching was provided from pre-school and nursery classes to Grade Nine, the conclusion of junior education.

“With funding from supporters in Skye in Scotland and from Zambia Orphan Aid, some pupils were sponsored to continue their education at other schools. Subsequently, secondary education to Grade 12 was provided on site with these years being incorporated as a private school.”

 Cumnor URC began supporting Rosemary’s work in 2005 when she visited her former teacher and life-long mentor Wyn Cornish.

“Wyn had taught Rosemary at Chipembi Girls’ School in the then Northern Rhodesia where she served with the Methodist Missionary Society from 1956,” added Nigel. “She returned to the UK in 1974 having made a substantial contribution to the, by then, independent Republic of Zambia. Wyn brought Rosemary to us at Cumnor URC where she spoke of her ambitions for the school.”

Since then, the Church has provided funding toward core costs and the feeding programme which gives every pupil a mid-day meal.

“In 2013 Rosemary, another member of the teaching staff and two senior pupils visited the UK,” continued Nigel. “Out of this visit came an initiative to form The Oxford Friends of Hope & Faith, an association of Cumnor URC open to all who wished to support the work of the school.”

Although the group has provided the school with funds for a variety of purposes, it’s principal work is funding awards to meet the fees and other costs for former pupils and staff of Hope & Faith and Max High (the secondary education to Grade 12 provision incorporated as a private school) together with other deserving young people wanting to pursue higher education or trade training.

More than 30 young people have benefitted and a number of former pupils who qualified as teachers now teach at the school.