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People of Tikondane: Profiles

Manageress of Tikondane, Ziwase Cathryn Phiri (Zee)

I am devastated to have to tell you that Amai Zee, our Manageress, died in October, in hospital with Meningitis. She had been counselled and tested for the dreaded disease last Saturday, but that was too late for her. She was already too sick to profit from the new drugs.
Tikondane is having an extreme loss. Amai Zee was a piller of the establishment. In her quiet ways she had staff consult her and trust her. When the director was gone, as was often in 2004 and 2005, she kept the ship going with extremely good governance and devotion. She will be sorely missed by all at Tikondane, and probably most by the director.
Zee leaves her daughter Bwalya, who is close to having a retest of one of the areas of the Grade 12 exams,  to then start on some further training. Right now relatives of the family and a doctor from St Francis hospital, have taken over all arrangements and the care of Bwalya, but she must know that she will always have a home at Tiko.
It is planned, in Amai Zee's memory, to give a bag of maizemeal to everyone who will be counselled and tested for the most common disease around, so that no one needs to miss out on a second chance - life is too precious.

Thank you, Amai Zee - may you rest in peace.

Above, Zee with her daughter Bwalya, who is now in year 12.

Above: TIKO TIGERS 2004


Mustapher Banda

Mustapher is 23, has excellent grades in year 12 and is currently doing a correspondence course as an electrician.

Here at Tikondane Centre he is our engineer and builder, as he directs the Contractor, organizes materials and knows a great deal about bricklaying and building.

His father is the plumber of St Francis Hospital, so Mustapher knows about plumbing also.



Benson Banda

Benson is Tikondane's head gardener. He has worked with an Austrian couple, Agronomists, for some years, and has a large farm of his own, a pond with fish for food, and an oxcart.

His marvellous wife Agnes is learning English at Tikondane. They have seven delightful children.


Susan Lungu

Susan, with her warm smile and friendly personality, is an ideal person to be receptionist at TIKONDANE COMMUNITY CENTRE. She also needs great tact to separate the people who have genuine business with the Centre from the time wasters. Yet Susan plays another important role. She has been a teacher in both the local area of Katete and in the Zambian capital of Lusaka. At TIKONDANE she uses this experience to teach literacy and number skills to children and to adults.

And 30-year-old Susan has another talent, as you discover in the nearby village of Greya where she lives with her two children and her mother. Perhaps inevitably, the family also includes two AIDS orphans, the children of her sister who died of the new scourge of Africa.

Susan and her children, Shezipi, then aged 7, and Lackson, then aged 3 are in the accompanying photo. [Note from Elke: Shezipi is a NGONI name. Most people at Katete are Chewa, but there are enough NGONI to demonstrate the good relationship between the tribes. Tikondane people enjoy Ngule Wamkulu (Chewa Ghost Dance) as much as NGOMA (NGONI Warrior Dance).]

The village women have a great reputation for the quality of their drum music, chanting and dancing, and Susan has a fine voice to contribute to this (as well as to the TIKONDANE choir). Regularly the women erect a brush fence to give privacy from the prying eyes of men and children and hold their own ceremony including the CINAMWALI dance, which is part of the initiation for young women. The only men permitted to see this African Zambian "women's business" are occasional visiting Muzungu, whose interest is accepted if sensitively combined with respect. The women play the drums with fanatical fervour and great style. It is quite common to see a woman drumming away fervently, with a child tied to her back or even happily feeding at her breast.

Susan's village is strongly feminist in another respect. The village head'man' is in fact a woman, chosen by her family. This is not unique, and many more women in Zambia are taking on this grassroots role in local government.

Susan is an independent person. Having passed her GCE with five subjects she began teaching and eventually moved to Lusaka where she lived with her husband, a foreman in the transport industry.
Although they had two children, Shezipi, a girl now aged 9 (early 2004) and Lackson, a boy now aged 6, the marriage did not turn out happily. Her husband resented Susan's wish to have a teaching career. Susan insisted, and so they were divorced and Susan returned to her mother in Katete. Here, in addition to fully participating in village life and ceremonial, Susan worships with the Reformed Church of Zambia.

Susan has been working at TIKONDANE since 1999 and with the Centre's help, she is anxious to improve her qualifications.
When she took her GCE she did not pass in mathematics, which is essential to get teachers' training college education. For almost ten years she has been working as an 'untrained' teacher. At Tikondane she worked on her maths in the hope that next year she will be able to take a teachers' college course.

But although the smartly dresssed Susan is very much a career girl, she will always combine this with her traditional culture. "It is an essential part of my life", she says.
PS Susan lives in a mudhut. There is a pit latrine near-by and a handpump with borehole water some twenty minutes away.

Update from Elke: Susan was accepted for Teacher Training College and has been attending since 2003.

Esther Zulu

Esther might be considered the epitome of the modern Zambian woman, well educated and anxious to contribute to the life of the nation. Yet at the same time she acknowledges her caring responsibility to her family and ensuring her two children are well prepared for adult life.

Esther had a varied life before joining TIKONDANE COMMUNITY CENTRE. Now 39, she worked for many years in the Copper Belt before the plunging world price of copper made it no longer a great source of Zambia's prosperity. Her work there was as a secretary in the Zambian National Service (the army) and it was in the Copper Belt that she married her mechanic husband. By him she has had two children, Clifford aged 16, and Maureen aged 13. The marriage has not lasted, the conflict issue being Esther's wish to have a career while her husband wished her to be a stay-at-home housewife.

Divorced, she returned to her parents' farm in Katete and now combines her work at TIKONDANE with helping her aged father with the 20 hectare farm. This means growing cotton as a cash crop, in addition to maize and sunflowers, and the keeping of goats, to provide food for the family. Like so
many in Zambia, hers is an extended family, reflecting the major tragedy of Zambia today. Two sisters have died of AIDS, leaving four children in the care of Esther and her parents, in addition to her own two. Thus her salary and the small income from the farm support nine people. Her contribution to TIKONDANE is highly valued says the director, Sister Elke. 'It is such a pleasure to have a co-worker who thinks in terms of management. For the sake of TIKONDANE she is the first in the morning and will stay on in the evening if necessary.'

At TIKONDANE Esther has an extra skill to contribute. She had taken a course in adult education, so in addition to secretarial work, such as correspondence and minutes, she conducts classes for staff members who are illiterate. In a nation where an estimated 30 percent of the population are illiterate, such teaching is invaluable. And by now, in her literacy class she is starting to teach English in addition to the indigenous Chichewa.

Another important part of adult education is teaching modern farming methods to the hundred of small farmers in the area. Part of the reason for Zambia's hunger problem is the reliance on growing maize. Farmers cultivate this year after year on the same patch of land, trying to renew its fertility with artificial fertilizers. These have become too expensive and the sensible alternative is to alternate maize with legumes and a tree, Sesbania Sesban, which needs two years to pump enough nitrogen into the soil so that maize will grow well without any fertilizer.

Despite her significant contribution to the life of the area, Esther is quietly spoken and has no strong feminist tendencies or political ambition. She will not be drawn into political argument, tactfully telling you she is satisfied with what the Zambian Government is doing, even in the controversial area of AIDS prevention and treatment. And Sister Elke admires her cheerfulness, saying: 'She always has a smile on her face and is ready to laugh".

PS Esther lives in a brick house with iron roof, but only 30 square meters for 7 people. There is a pit latrine, but water is 15 minutes away.


Kapauka Amon Nyirenda

When 56 -year-old Kapauka Nyirenda was compulsorily retired from the Zambian public service recently, he was anxious to find new outlets for his abundant energy and his interest in serving his people. He knew of the work of TIKONDANE COMMUNITY CENTRE from having taken part in the Centre's 1999 opening ceremony as the director of the Department of Community Development for Zambia's Eastern Province. As a result, he had come to admire Sister Elke's vision to make TIKONDANE serve a great purpose in the area. First he filled the position of chairman, then he joined the staff in the vital role of financial controller, paying the many bills and salaries and thereby keeping a tight hand on the Centre's money. This work he combines with being the Pastor of the local Pentecostal Holiness Church.

The small salary Kapauka (which means the Godsent) receives from TIKONDANE is vital for his family's survival. Kapauka and his wife Matilda have nine children, five of whom are still at home in Katete. In addition, like so many other Zambian families, the couple are responsible for the upbringing of the children of deceased relatives. In their case, they are the four children of Matilda's three dead sisters, two of whom have died of AIDS. Matilda's Father completes the Katete family, with another of her sisters' children supported at school. This is another common occurrence: If one family member has a job, the brothers and sisters may send their children to be educated by him or her.

In Zambia, public servants receive no State pension on retirement and although they are supposed to receive a one-off retirement grant, it is long delayed, as long as four years or so, owing to the perilous state of Government finances.

Kapauka gets great satisfaction from being involved in the work of TIKONDANE, especially adult education, the field he studied at University and had the option of a grant to go to Germany. Although that did not work out, he went to India and wrote reports on adult education in many states there as well as working on his own project.
He sees TIKONDANE as unique in being a "homegrown community centre, established not by an overseas organisation but by a Muzungu (white person) already working in Africa, with the support of African friends." Very simply he says of Sister Elke "She is our God-given helper".

[The profiles of Susan, Esther and Kapauka were written by Robin Brampton, 2002 when he visited Tikondane]


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