KATUYOLA, Zambia — What began as a gathering of residents from Katuyola—a group of neighboring villages in the North-Western Province of Zambia—to reflect on the development of local Bahá’í educational programs may well be a defining moment for their communities.
Discussions at the gathering of some 200 people have led to the realization that after many decades of experience with efforts for spiritual and moral empowerment, academic education, and programs related to social and economic development, there is now increased capacity to offer a seamless educational experience, from childhood into adulthood.
Musonda Kapusa-Linsel, a member of the Continental Board of Counsellors in Africa, says that this vision first emerged from a pivotal national gathering of Bahá’í educational agencies in Zambia.
Mrs. Kapusa-Linsel explains: “What drives this vision is the conviction among a growing number of people, traditional leaders, and governing institutions in Katuyola that education is central to social progress.”
Steering the course of their own development
Hamed Javaheri, another Counsellor from Zambia, explains that the discussion has enabled the inhabitants of Katuyola, its leaders, and institutions to reflect on the strengths of the full range of educational efforts—whether offered by the Bahá’í community or the wider society—to arrive at a common vision about their future.
Mr. Javaheri highlighted the unifying effect of the gathering, stating: “Diverse segments of Katuyola’s inhabitants are working alongside Bahá’í agencies to learn about how the various efforts already under way can be viewed as parts of an overall system of education.”
As a result of these discussions, the educational agencies involved have already begun to work more closely together and formed a ‘village educational team’ that will be responsible for maintaining synergies between all of the educational endeavors in Katuyola.
In comments shared with the News Service, Patrick Nshindi, one of the traditional leaders in the area, explains that this burgeoning educational system in Katuyola is enabling the community to chart a path for its own progress. “These programs are different in their approach because they provide our children with both material and spiritual education. And at the center of it all is service to the community,” he says.
Mr. Nshindi adds: “These initiatives are helping everyone to better appreciate the significant role of education in social transformation and in equipping the younger generations to combat the negative forces they face.”
Vahid, a youth from Katuyola, emphasized this idea, explaining that Bahá’í educational programs help young people to navigate the complexities of life.
“The youth in these programs are far less likely to give in to the social pressures around them, because they are developing spiritual qualities through serving the needs of their communities,” he says.
Violet, another young person from Katuyola, explains how her experience with serving as a teacher of children’s moral education classes has profoundly shaped her thinking about the future. “Serving as a teacher has inspired me to think of my career path in a way that will allow me to continue to serve my community.”
Another traditional leader, the senior traditional leader of Mundundu, Milton Kakolu, states: “These moral education programs will help many populations in Katuyola to advance further. They have already helped our communities to reduce the rate of crime and address other challenges.”
Addressing the education of women
The local gathering in Katuyola has stimulated further community-wide discussions, most recently on the role of women in contributing to social transformation.
Mrs. Kapusa-Linsel explains that in exploring the complexities of raising an educational system, the residents of Katuyola also see a need to address cultural attitudes that act as barriers to formal education for women.
This and other issues were examined by 120 women at the gathering, including how they can support the education of their children, especially when many have not received formal education themselves.
Ireen, a mother attending the discussion, said: “It’s difficult for some of us women to see the importance of education as we ourselves have not been educated. This has prevented parents from effectively assisting their children with school.”
She added: “This was the first time that I’ve attended such a discussion. It has helped me to see the role that parents can play in fully supporting the education of their children.”
Another mother, Juliet, added that even when parents prioritize education, the discussions have highlighted ways that they can support their children’s educational needs.
“My role as a mother is to be involved in the progress of my children. I will have conversations with them about the importance of education and visit their teachers so that I know how they are performing,” she said.
Fruits of consultations from recent gatherings
Following the women’s gathering, participants decided to form literacy classes which will be conducted by the graduates of the Bahá’í-inspired educational program called Preparation for Social Action (PSA).
Another outcome of that gathering is a new initiative for women to earn income from cultivating home gardens. This effort, which will be supported by a PSA team specializing in agriculture, will also aim to start a community savings bank to assist the women with better supporting the educational needs of their children.
In reflecting on the recent local gatherings, Friday Pindalu, member of the Bahá’í Local Spiritual Assembly of Katuyola, says: “We were able to see that previously we were working in isolation, but after these meetings, we see that all these activities are meant to serve the same purpose to contribute to the material and spiritual growth of Katuyola.”
Those gathered decided that they would establish a center of learning in the village, where many classes and activities for all ages could take place, including academic tutorials for those in secondary school. The Bahá’í Centre in the nearby village of Mundundu will serve this purpose until a permanent location can be found elsewhere in Katuyola.
Mr. Nshindi says that the gatherings have inspired the village leaders to assist with the growing educational movement in Katuyola, for example, by providing resources for developing a local secondary school.
“We have agreed to give the land where a secondary school can be built, and we are ready to support it as a community,” he says.
This would alleviate the need for some youth to attend secondary school away from home, ensuring that they can remain in their communities, with their families and a support structure that would allow them to channel their energies to addressing the needs of their community.
These discussions will intensify in the coming weeks and months, addressing various educational needs of the people of Katuyola.
The first in a series of gatherings in Katuyola, which brought together traditional leaders, Bahá’í agencies involved in promoting spiritual and material education in that village, parents, youth, and children to explore possibilities for addressing the educational needs of their community.
Village leaders (top right) played an important role in the discussions, offering their insights and observations about the positive impact of Bahá’í educational programs on the young people of Katuyola.
Some of the participants of the first gathering in Katuyola, which was held recently.
A recent gathering brought together some 120 women to reflect on the role they can play in contributing to the material and spiritual education of their children.
Consultations at the women’s gathering have generated plans for several initiatives, including a literacy program.
Bahá’í educational initiatives in the village of Katuyola and the rest of Zambia have been unfolding for several decades, focusing on spiritual and moral empowerment, academic education, and initiatives related to social and economic development.
A national gathering of Bahá’í institutions and Bahá’í-inspired organizations in Zambia was held in Lusaka to take an expansive view of the various educational undertakings in that country which have been unfolding over several decades. That gathering inspired the series of discussions that are being held in Katuyola.