About

The Racecourse Community School

Community School Movement | Racecourse Community School Fundraising Initiative

The Racecourse Community School

The Racecourse Community School (RCS) for orphans and vulnerable children was founded in 1999 by members of the racecourse Community in Kitwe, Zambia. This community school began because there were a large number of children in the community who could not afford to attend the government schools, and there was no government school in the community.

The RCS has grown over the years to become the largest community school in the Copperbelt Province of Zambia. It has over 1700 pupils and 19 teachers from the Racecourse Community and some of the surrounding communities. They offer preschool to grade 7 and then some of the students are funded by the School Board to carry on their grades 8-12 at government schools in neighbouring communities. Classes of 60-100 used to be taught out of rented churches and old taverns around the community, but since the completion of their first permanent school block and a second temporary structure, the classes have been relocated to one central location.

The RCS is registered as a community school with the Government of Zambia and receives a small amount of money each year from the government to cover a few of their costs. RCS students have a history of performing very well on the Grade 7 government exams (that are taken across the country and determine qualification for grade 8). And this school and community have received recognition in the past from the Office of the President in Zambia, for the contributions they are making towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education in Zambia by 2015.

The Community School Movement

There are many other community schools in Zambia (around 3000) that also started around the same time as the RCS. These schools all vary dramatically in terms of the quality and quantity of services they provide as well as in the financial resources they have access to. Most community schools in Zambia offer only primary education, though the RCS hopes to one day offer grades preschool – 12. At community schools, the children do not have to buy uniforms and shoes, and school supplies such as pencils and paper are provided by the school administrators. These are typically items which government schools expect students to have and which make it challenging for many Zambian children to attend government schools.

The Racecourse Community

The Racecourse Community is on the outskirts of Kitwe. It was named this because there used to be a horse racing track in the area and community members worked there. This track has been closed for a long time but the name of the community lives on.

Kitwe is the second largest city in Zambia with a population of 547 700 (2007 census). It is located in the Copperbelt Province which is highly industrialized and has high unemployment and HIV/AIDS rates. The Racecourse Community,
together with it’s neighbour Twatasha Community have over 20 000 people living in them. These communities are relatively impoverished compared to other communities in the city of Kitwe.

Zambia

The country of Zambia has historically been politically stable. It was a British-ruled country called Northern Rhodesia during colonial times and after achieving independence in 1964 they became a socialist one party country. In 1991 the country held their first multi-party democratic elections and the new government decided to follow IMF Structural Adjustments Plans (SAPs) in order to receive loans. These SAPs included privatization of government owned businesses (including the copper mines in the Copperbelt Province), imposing school fees and making cut backs to health care and other social services. These changes occurred at the same time that the HIV/AIDS crisis began taking a huge toll on the Zambian population. In the Copperbelt Province, many people lost their jobs and many children could no longer afford school. The Community School Movement and other community driven social service initiatives stemmed from this history.

Racecourse Community School Administration

The RCS is run by a Board which consists of the following: The Head Teacher of the RCS, the Treasurer of the RCS, 2 Teachers, 2 Racecourse Community Executive Committee Members (usually the Chairperson and Treasurer of the
Community Executive), 2 Staff Members of the United Church of Zambia Theological College (UCZTC) – one of these two is always the Chairperson of the RCS Board, 2 local Business Leaders, 2 Members of the Mindolo United
Church, 2 Students (the Head Boy and Head Girl), 2 Parents, and volunteers from St. Paul’s United Church when they are in the country.

The Board has a number of different sub-committees including a Finance and Fundraising Committee. This committee is responsible for drafting the annual budget which they subsequently take to the Board and then send out to give various donors an idea of their yearly expenses and income sources. The Board has an international bank account through which they receive donations from foreign supporters. This account has 3 signatories. The Chairperson of the Board, Rev. Dennis Sikazwe (Faculty Member of the UCZTC), the Head Teacher, and the Treasurer for the RCS are the signatories (only 2 signatures are needed but the Chairperson must be one of them). The Chairperson of the Board receives notification of fund transfers and directions on fund expenditures from the foreign donors, and takes this information to the RCS Board for them to work out further details and administer accordingly.

The primary funding for the RCS comes from the Racecourse Community School Fundraising Initiative in Canada (approximately $20 000CAD/year, this is an outreach branch of St. Paul’s United Church), and also from Caversham
Methodist Church in the UK (approximately $7000 CAD/year). Other funding comes in an ad-hoc manner from the Government of Zambia, visitors to the community and the community members and students themselves.


Racecourse Community School Fundraising Initiative

Vision

Out of a belief in equality and justice for all, The Racecourse Community School Fundraising Initiative (RFI) in Edmonton, Canada is working to enable the leaders of the Racecourse Community School (RCS) in Kitwe, Zambia to achieve
their goals of educating orphans and vulnerable children. Our hope is to empower the school to be a source of positive change for the Racecourse Community as a whole. We are working towards this goal through partnership.

Beginnings

The RFI began in Jan 2004 as an Outreach Branch of St. Paul’s United Church (SPs) in Edmonton, Canada. A member of SPs, Heather MacKenzie, travelled to Zambia with her friend Thulasy Balasubramaniam in the summer of 2004. They
went to visit Betty Marlin, a minister with the United Church of Canada, who had been teaching at the United Church of Zambia Theological College. Betty and her colleagues had forged a partnership between the college and the RCS. Betty
connected Heather and Thulasy with the RCS upon their arrival, and they volunteered there for 2 months. In anticipation of this connection, Heather and Thulasy began fundraising in Canada for the RCS in January of 2004. Heather
and Thulasy were so inspired by the work of the teachers and students at the RCS and by the generosity of Canadian donors, that upon returning from Zambia they decided to continue supporting the RCS well into the future.

Activities

The RFI continues to be managed by Heather MacKenzie through St. Paul’s United Church. The RFI has approximately 10 regular volunteers in Canada, 8 organizations who are fundraising partners, a network of approximately 350
supporters on the e-mail list and 144 supporters on the facebook group. The RFI is actively raising funds and awareness for the RCS.

To raise awareness, volunteers give presentations on an ongoing basis to a variety of churches, schools and other community groups. At these presentations they educate people on topics such as Zambian history and
current events, the Community School Movement, HIV/AIDS, the RCS itself and other issues that affect the lives of the children and teachers at the school.

To raise funds, the RFI runs an annual fundraising dinner with approximately 80 people in attendance. They also produce and sell calendars each year and they sell art work that has been made by former students and relatives of the RCS.
These fundraisers serve to build and maintain a core community of RCS supporters who give through SPs and other organizations throughout the year. The RFI also offers resources and support to a number of partner organizations
that wish to fundraise for the RCS.

As a result of these efforts and the fundraisers of partner organizations, $20 000 CAD is donated to the RCS on an annual basis in two instalments of $10 000CAD each. These funds are directed towards operating expenses. Additional funds are donated for specific time-limited projects when funds allow. Donations that require a tax receipt are processed by SPs, and all other funds raised are processed by the RFI. The RFI sends directions regarding the expenditure of the funds to the RCS Board taking into consideration the funding priorities that the RCS Board has communicated to the RFI.

Funds for the operational expenses of the school are typically directed to things such as:

  • teacher allowances/training
  • student requisites (i.e. pencils/paper)
  • office supplies
  • desks and chalk boards
  • school maintenance
  • costs associated with water and land
  • sponsorship of graduates as they carry on in government schools.

Thus far, only one special project has been funded through SPs funds. That is the construction of the second new school block.

Results

The results of the partnership between the RFI and the RCS are many.
The list below summarises just a few:

  • While many other community schools flounder or collapse due to a lack of funding or inconsistent funding, the RCS has been sustained and has grown over the past 6 years in large part because of he consistent support of the RFI. The RCS is the largest community school in the Copperbelt Province of Zambia, educating over 1700 orphans and vulnerable children. Money from the RFI has gone towards providing school requisites to enable these children to attend school. This funding has improved both the quality and quantity of education offered at the RCS. RCS graduates have and continue to perform as well or better than government school students on Grade 7 government school exams (that are taken country-wide).
  • There are 19 teachers who receive a small monthly allowance from funds raised through the RFI and through Caversham Methodist Church in the UK. By working together to support the teachers, we have seen dramatic improvement in the quality of life of these teachers, their nuclear and extended families, and the communities to which they belong.
  • Of the 19 teachers, 6 of them have completed teachers training in recent years and 4 others are currently in training. The RFI has been an important contributor to this development. As the teachers complete their training, they will not only provide improved education to the students, but they will also become eligible to teach grades 9-12 (as they were not eligible in the past). Because of this development and the additional funds that have been donated for a new school block, the RCS Board plans to expand the grades being offered at the RCS.
  • One relatively intangible, yet palpable result of the partnership between the RFI and the RCS over the past 6 years has been an ever-increasing sense of confidence in the leaders and graduates of the RCS. They are considered leaders in their community and through the support they receive both locally and internationally, they are having a significant positive impact on the Racecourse Community and city of Kitwe more broadly.
  • Another important, yet unquantifiable result of the partnership has been that the people involved in the RFI have had an increased sense of community and purpose in their lives and that members of SPs and the wider Canadian public have become better informed on global issues and concerns.

Future

In the future the RFI hopes to sustain and enhance the partnership which they have with the RCS. In more concrete terms, the goals of the RFI are to:

  • Continue transferring a minimum of $20 000 to the RCS Board for operating expenses each year until such a time that the RCS Board no longer requires these funds.
  • Continue transferring funds for specific projects as they are envisioned by the RCS Board and contributed to by donors.
  • Support the RCS Board in developing and financing income generating activities to enable the RCS Board to develop operational funds in Zambia
  • Continually improve communication with the RCS Board and staff and students of the RCS so that the partnership will be responsive to the needs that exist at the RCS and to ensure accountability to both donors and the intended recipients of donated funds.
  • Continue educating the general public about the RCS and issues affecting the teachers and students of the RCS (i.e. HIV/AIDs).
  • Support other groups in Canada and internationally that wish to learn more and become involved in supporting community schools in Zambia.

Conclusion

The RFI is an exciting initiative that has a very broad base of support in Canada and an amazing partner in Zambia. Since its inception, the RFI has surpassed fundraising goals and targets. However, the RFI is aware of concerns regarding donor fatigue and donor dependency and has attempted to put in procedures and practices to ensure that an empowering partnership will be sustained well into the future. For more information on this initiative, please feel free to contact Heather MacKenzie at [email protected]
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