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True Tales of Zambia
Written by David Alwyn Lougher   
Tuesday, 28 February 2012 17:51

Some more stories based on my experience of living and teaching in Zambia from 1976 to 1985.

Short notice

One day in early December, 1983, a large lorry turned up at Chadiza Secondary School with a letter addressed to me from the Ministry of Higher Education. The letter informed me, to my great surprise, that I had been promoted to the post of Biology Lecturer at Nkrumah Teachers’ College in Kabwe! It was a surprise because I had applied for the post over a year ago and had given up all hope of getting it. I felt sorry for the Head, Mr Mbuzi, who would find it difficult to replace me at such short notice. The driver informed me that he was leaving in a few hours so we had to start packing immediately. We had no furniture but we had a lot of belongings to sort out. Working through the night, and with help from some schoolgirls, we managed to pack- up everything. Early in the morning the lorry picked up our katundu and left us to prepare for the long, gruelling, 700km drive to Kabwe in our Datsun.

When we arrived at the college I soon realised that the Principal was not pleased to see us. The post I was taking up had been “unofficially” filled by an expatriate teacher from a local secondary school and there was no suitable accommodation. We stayed for a few days in the college hostel before moving into very basic accommodation on the CMML mission station. A house was then allocated to us but we had to wait for it to be painted. After moving in we discovered there was a problem with the cesspit so periodically the toilet blocked-up. After complaining about the health risk to our two infants we were given a flat in which we stayed for the rest of my contract.

Spot the spy

Part of my stay in Zambia coincided with the “freedom struggle” in neighbouring Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. Because of incursions by Ian Smith’s forces, Zambia introduced security measures. Taking photos of structures such as bridges, reservoirs, railway stations, and important government buildings were prohibited, and there were road blocks on the Kafue and Luangwa bridges.

One Sunday afternoon I drove Mr Matthew, a newly arrived teacher from India, to see the local reservoir on the outskirts of Chadiza. I parked the car near the damn and we climbed up the hill to get a better view and to take some photos. A Landrover pulled up on the damn and looking through my binoculars I saw a man waving at us. He turned out to be a government official who asked us what we were doing. I explained that I had taken my new colleague to see the reservoir and decided to take some photos. He pointed out that this was not allowed and there was a roadside warning poster to that effect. The next day I was called in by the Head, an Englishman, and, in the presence of his Zambian Deputy, was reprimanded for my wrongdoing. I can’t remember if they confiscated the film but, to my surprise, I was allowed to keep the camera and the binoculars. In the circumstances, an expatriate teacher carrying a camera and binoculars in a restricted area was leaving himself open to a charge of spying.

A mad dash

When my wife and I drove from Kabwe to Mkushi on a Saturday in late January, 1985, we had no inkling that the next morning we would be making a mad dash back to Kabwe, for the birth of our third child, Gareth.

We were attending a Scripture Union conference on David Moffat’s farm (David is a direct descendent of Robert Moffat, the missionary explorer). After the evening meal we retired to our sleeping quarters in an empty farmhouse. My wife started complaining of abdominal pain. At first she thought it was due to the curry meal she had eaten earlier but soon realised that she was in labour! Fortunately there was a midwife staying nearby so early in the morning my wife was taken to Mkushi Clinic. After examination she was told that there was enough time to drive back to Kabwe. I’m not a very fast driver but that day I drove my Datsun like a safari rally driver! Gareth was born that evening in Kabwe General Hospital where my wife was employed as; you have guessed it, a midwife! So the birth which started on a farm in Mkushi on Saturday, ended in a hospital in Kabwe 200km away, on the Sunday.


The Zambian sound I came to detest the most was the buzzing of the mosquitoes or mossies. I found their “bites”, especially on the wrists and ankles, very irritating and made worse by scratching. A “bite” from an infected female mosquito could also lead to malaria, one of the worst tropical diseases in Zambia. During my first year I religiously swallowed my anti-malaria tablets every week but after that became careless and stopped taking them. It was not surprising that I went down with malaria. It happened during the rainy season when the mosquito population is at its height. The symptoms were a high temperature followed by sweating and shivering, accompanied by nausea and headache. I was in Kalabo Hospital for five days. I lost my appetite and survived on long life milk. I was feeling sorry for myself until they brought in a soldier shot in Angola. There was no bed so he had to lie on a mattress on the floor! The high note of the week, or should I say low, was father Patrick playing Irish songs on his piano accordion. I can appreciate “When Irish eyes are smiling” and “Sweet Molly Malone” but not when I’m sweating and shivering with malaria! After getting back to school I had to mark the mock exam papers – about 170 scripts! It took time for my appetite to return so when I visited my sister in the vacation she thought I was suffering from malnutrition! It was the most debilitating disease I have ever experienced and the sooner they eradicate it the better.

David Alwyn Lougher 2012