On this day in 1964, Northern Rhodesia became the Republic of Zambia, with Kenneth Kaunda appointed the country’s first president. This meant that the year 2014 saw big celebrations marking 50 years of the country’s independence. And just two years later it is clear that the celebrations are still considered a very important tradition here. The Zambian staff at Kapumpe told me we should make sure we provide the children with an opportunity to celebrate their Independence Day.
Independence Day is a public holiday, so we celebrated it the previous Friday. At school we hosted a special assembly which involved each class performing a song and sharing information about Zambia; a brief history of Zambia and the meaning of the colours of the flag. Some of our younger children performed traditional dances whilst others from Grade 3 shared their own poems about being Zambian.
One of our Zambian teachers led the assembly and explained what Independence Day is and why it is celebrated. It felt a little bit strange to me being British and celebrating Zambia’s independence from the UK! This was particularly true when she talked about how white people used to mistreat Zambians until independence meant freedom for Zambia, and that whites and blacks could now do things together.
Some of the assembly was led in Bemba, the local language. Occasionally I could hear my name being mentioned when she talked about the ‘muzungus’ (white people). I think she was explaining that independence resulted in Zambia being able to have white teachers and black Zambian teachers working together.
The children (and teachers) all enjoyed coming to school wearing Zambian colours. There were a number of children who had come in their school uniform, not so much because they had forgotten but more likely because they don’t actually own many (if any) of their own clothes other than their uniform. For some of the children, particularly for those supported by the Arise Orphan Project, school uniform is their best outfit. The reactions of the children who came in wearing their uniform were similar to that of children in the UK who end up wearing uniform on ‘mufti day’ – feeling embarrassed or left out. Fortunately we had some chitenge (pieces of cloth that are worn by local people) in Zambian colours, which we used to make headbands or belts for these children to wear.
|Dressed in Zambia's colours|
After assembly we all enjoyed slices of cake that we had iced with the colours of the Zambian flag. It was a really enjoyable day, and particularly interesting for those of us who weren’t born in Zambia as it gave us a great opportunity to hear about the country's independence from the Zambians' perspective.