I first had contact with Graceland School back in 2010 when Mr Bornwell Daka visited me in Kawama and invited me to visit his school. He and his wife, Catherine Daka, were at that time running a school for about 450 pupils in Pamodzi, just outside Ndola. The school is called “Graceland” after a nun called Sr Grace, who is the late sister of Catherine Daka. Sr Grace trained as a teacher in Ireland before returning to Zambia where she unfortunately died very young. The school is dedicated to her memory. Since 2010 the school has grown by the provision of new school rooms and a library room, so that they now have approximately 600 pupils.
Mr and Mrs Daka have inspired all those who have visited Graceland School. They founded and have ran the school entirely from their own resources. They not only educate the children in their care, but they also feed them. Their quiet faith in God and in their children have brought hope and achievement to those who might never have had a chance to learn and their past pupils are now among the best educated young citizens of the Ndola region. A Graceland education is something to be proud of.
I started in a small way bringing suitcases of books to Graceland School on our annual visits to Zambia, and then laptop computers, microscopes for their science lab and pens and pencils for those who might have struggled to provide their own. Over the years I have prevailed upon others to help too, so that by 2014 we were able to deliver over 40 suitcases of books and school materials to Graceland. Graceland now has a well-resourced school library and a computer lab. We even delivered a large consignment of 20 microscopes for their science lab, in 2016. These resources are almost unheard of in Zambia. The students at Graceland are now achieving the very highest grades in their state examinations in the entire Copperbelt province and the name of Graceland has become renowned both regionally and nationally. The combination of a very dedicated staff and some external support in relation to books and materials clearly works. In 2014 however, Catherine Daka laid down a challenge.
In 2014, Catherine Daka suggested to me that as her school had been so blessed with books and teaching materials, she felt she should share these resources with other schools in the area. We discussed what might be possible and that idea developed into the Sister Grace library. Essentially, I filled a 40 foot long steel shipping container with books and teaching materials and bookshelves which was delivered to Zambia in July 2017. Mr and Mrs Daka received those books and teaching materials and have administered the resources by sharing those items among schools throughout Zambia. Thousands of people, for the first time, have access to books. A second container full of books was delivered to Zambia in September 2018, and Mr and Mrs Daka again shared out those books among schools in the Ndola area. For more information, see the Sr Grace Library tab above.
I must sadly report that Catherine Daka died after a short illness in 2020. She was a larger than life character, a great friend, and a wonderful educator. She will be hugely missed. Her husband, Bornwell, and her daughter, Duba, are continuing on the good work in Graceland School.
As I return to Zambia every year, I will keep working with Graceland. For so long and Mr Daka and Graceland School continue to have good ideas and continue to dedicate themselves to the education of their community, I will continue to help. This is where the long term future of Zambia will be built.