Joseph and Margaret Lungu have been involved with Mothers of Africa since we first visited Shiyala. Joseph had followed Maxwell as head of the school PTA. He supplements his farming by making bricks using earth from a giant anthill on his land. Not satisfied just making the bricks, Joseph created a cave in the anthill with a giant Mother-of-Africa statue in the centre. On yearly visits to the art-cave we were accompanied by their children: Christine, Astridah, Lydiah and Iris. In 2016, as Joseph worked on the farm, Margaret worked as a laborer on the first school build, often with newly born Stella on her back.
Seeing the children grow has been one of the joys of being involved with the project. But the fragility of life here in rural Zambia was brought home to me this year.
Astridah and Lydiah are regulars on the holiday camps run by Mothers of Africa and Lydiah was there to meet us as we arrived this time. I asked her how Astridah, Iris and Stella were, and she replied saying Stella was dead. It was a short, simple response with great sadness in her voice. As the week progressed, Lydiah and Astridah had fun with their classmates, but it was clear that both girls had been deeply affected.
On the day of the inauguration of the new school block, Joseph came to help with preparations and I was able to ask him what had happened.
It seems that two-year old Stella was copying her sisters by going down to the river to collect water but, on this occasion she had gone on her own, slipped, and unable to get out, had drowned.
The girls in Shiyala, and other rural African villages, learn at a young age many of the tasks that they will be expected to carry out as adults. I have lots of sweet images of girls, some as young as 3, learning to pump water and then carry it. Stella’s death has, to some degree, put these images into a context. These innocent images of children at play seem now to belie the reality of their lives.
Paul Crompton - 6th July 2018