Ambassadors from Zambia and Zimbabwe visited the town in November to discuss how the solar powered lighting system invented by Roger Mugridge from Cricklade is making an impact on education in their countries.
On 17 November Zambian High Commissioner Lt Colonel Bizwayo Nkunika spent a day with Swindon Town Football in the Community, meeting Zambians who live in the town (pictured right), and taking in the STFC game against Yeovil at the County Ground.
As described in the November Link a close community development relationship has been created between Swindon and the Zambian city of Livingstone where town coaches Jon Holloway and Clive Maguire have organised football coaching courses and a league, and more recently developed football for girls.
From sport has come education links between Crowdy’s Hill special school and Livingstone High School.
The High Commissioner was also fascinated when Roger Mugridge demonstrated his system for lighting classrooms and operating laptop computers in rural areas where there is no regular electricity supply.
The STFC Swindon Zambia link is keen for more schools and neighourhood groups to be become involved in developing sporting, cultural and community contacts. Find out more by contacting Andrew Deuchar on 01793 854684 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Earlier in November Zimbabwe ambassador Gabriel Machinga, right, visited Roger in Cricklade to discuss further work by Lights for Learning in his country.
The charity has established a close working relationship with the Zimbabwe education ministry and solar powered lights have been installed in 11 schools and a youth training centre.
“Roger and I met a few years ago,” said Mr Machinga. “What started as a small meeting has become a close friendship.
“Roger and his volunteers make a profound impact on the communities they visit because they engage with the people, particularly in my district of Chikuku
“Unlike staff from many NGOs who drive in to do their work then return to city hotels, Lights for Learning volunteers put up tents in the schools where they are installing lights, and they get locals involved in doing the work themselves.
“And it’s almost unheard of that first world aid workers sit down and eat food with local people. It makes a very important statement about sharing cultures through eating together.”
Gabriel added that the lights installed in the Chikuku youth training centre had given hope to young people who have little chance of keeping up with counterparts in areas of the country served by mains electricity. “You cannot underestimate the impact of being able to study and to do further training when the sun has gone down.
“Lights for Learning has created a real feel good factor; it’s a huge psychological boost for young people that they can have a better future locally and not have to think about moving to the towns and cities.
“As a result, with a donation from the Rotary Club of Westminster a year ago, it has been possible to purchase equipment and materials to set up a facility to manufacture furniture for schools in that region of Zimbabwe.
“It’s a model I’m pushing for in other parts of my country where children in rural areas can learn for longer, and the youth and adults can have learning and training opportunities.
“The Chikuku training centre is also making us rethink our human resources policies so that we target education resources at both the high achievers and also young people who need skills training. It means we can bring retired teachers and headteachers back into education and provide opportunities for those who might turn to crime, which becomes a drain on society through the police and justice systems.”
Lights for Learning is hoping that the UK government will assist it after meeting the Secretary of State for International Development Alan Duncan on a visit to Nova Hreod School in October. See the Link story at www.bit.ly/l4lduncan
• Find out more at: www.lightsforlearning.org
Roger Mugridge showing the High Commissioner, centre, and members of the Swindon Zambian community how bright his demonstration system is. Catherine Mulenga, centre right, attended the first Lights for Learning presentation in Swindon organised by The Link in 2002 which led to solar powered lights being installed into a large school she knew of in Zambia. Photo: Richard Wintle www.calyxpix.com