Express Christmas campaign – teenager worries for future over climate fears

A teenager’s future in Zambia dangles precariously on the fraying threads of environmental turmoil.

Grade six student Leah, 16, described how climate change could “shatter” her education.

The animated youngster is sometimes forced to miss school for up to two weeks when intense flooding during the rainy season makes the sand roads to her school, nearly two miles away, unreachable.

Speaking on the steps of Chikowa Primary School, she said: “My education might be ruined if climate change continues and high temperatures continue. It could destroy the crops that we depend on then we’ll be unable to produce what we need in a year. For example, if we only produce 13 bags of maize, and have to sell some of them for books and stationery. If we can’t afford those things then my education will be shattered.

“I won’t be able to cross roads to get to school because of flooding either. It’s happened several times. Whenever there’s floods, I can’t come to school. If it has rained heavily, it could take more than a week for water levels to drop. The longest period of time I haven’t come to school because of floods is two weeks.”

“I don’t feel good when I’m absent from school because sometimes at home there might be no food. So I also miss food at school so I don’t feel good.

“The longest I’ve gone without food at home is two days or three days.”

Leah, who hopes to be a nurse, told how she begins to shiver from weakness when she goes hungry.

The school pupil is determined to venture to school come rain or shine because of Mary’s Meals, a UK charity that provides a fortified cup of porridge to learners every day.

Generous Express readers have already donated several thousand pounds to our Chritsmas appeal which is supporting the organisation’s efforts to feed children in poverty.

Agnes, a mother of four, said: “I’m very grateful to Mary’s Meals for helping to ensure the children have food at school, even if they can’t eat at home. It gives me huge relief.”

“When I fail to find food for my children, it’s very painful as a parent. But I’m very hopeful that when the children eat at school, the children are much better. My wish is that Mary’s Meals continues because it’s a relief to parents and helps the children.”

Farmer Agnes told how she produced 16 bags of maize last year but warned costs of fertiliser, the inconsistent rainy season and rising temperatures have impacted her crops.

She said: “I’m worried about climate change and the impact it has. For example, it’s started raining now so we may plant our crops but we’re not sure if the rain will continue. Crops may start germinating and then the rains might stop. We have lots of worries because we don’t know what will happen. We could even face droughts.

“This district is also hit by unexpected floods.”

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“Personally, there are no measures I can put in place to mitigate such calamities, especially floods, high temperatures of droughts. There’s nothing I can do.

“My biggest worry is high temperatures because it could destroy our crops which would spell hunger and poverty for us. I’m worried about climate change. I don’t know what to do.”

Agnes, who left school in grade nine, added: “My hope is to see the children excel in education because I didn’t manage to attend higher level education. I want them to have a better future when they’re educated.”

As little as 10p can provide one nutritious meal for a hungry child.

Donations made to Mary’s Meals from now until 22 January 2024, including those from the Express Christmas appeal, will be doubled by a group of generous supporters – up to £1 million.

It costs just £19.15 to feed a child with Mary’s Meals every day for a school year. And this winter, a donation of £19.15 will feed two children.

  • To donate and find out more, visit

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