Call it sun-baking children, but this is how pupils at one primary school in Kasungu attend classes come rain come sunshine.
With only two classroom blocks, Kavuwa Primary School in Kasungu East has 511 pupils. Some learn under trees, while others learn in the two classroom blocks. Standard eight pupils learn in a makeshift, grass-thatched room.
On January 20 this year, heavy wind ravaged Mkando village, and other villages in the area of Sub Traditional Authority Chitanthamapiri, blowing off the roofs of the classroom blocks at the school. It was the second incident at the school.
The situation left children learning either in the four roofless classrooms or being sent home when it is rainy.
But a visit to the school last week showed only standard eight pupils, as the level of seniority at the school demands, have the best classroom: Agrass-thatched pigsty-like structure, just some ten metres from the two roofless classroom blocks.
Faces of the school's seniors could be seen peeping from makeshift windows.
Apart from the head teacher's house near the two roofless classroom blocks, built using money from Local Development Fund (LDF), the only well-built and beautiful structures at the school are eight toilets, some 20 metres away from the blocks.
The school does not have an administration block.
This year's October has been the toughest for eight year-old Standard three girl, Florida Frank in as far as her life in the classroom is concerned. She has had to endure the heat, whilst learning in class.
"Life is hard here. We have to learn in the roofless classroom. Sometimes, I find it hard to use my note books because of reflection of the light into my eyes. I fear for my eyes. We also suffer very much as the heat from the sun hit out bodies. At times, when there is rain, we are told to go home," Florida said.
Enock Lazaro, a standard seven pupil has no kind words for government. He seems to know what government should do on the matter.
"We have been learning in these conditions for quite some time now. Our learning is disturbed due to changes in weather. Government should do something here. We cannot continue learning like this. We are told that we are future leaders. How can we excel in our studies if we fail to learn because of lack of classrooms?" wonders Lazaro.
Headmaster of the school, Patrick Butao, says since January, weather changes have been determinant to learning at the school.
He minces no words that if the situation is too unbearable, the pupils are sent home.
"Pupils find it hard to learn at the school. Pupils are able to learn in the morning but it is very hard for them to learn in the afternoon. We teach them under trees; but when rain starts, we send them home," Butao said.
District Education Manager for Kasungu Rocky Housi, says his office is aware of the problem. He is, however, surprised that the roofs have not been replaced.
"I was told about the problem sometimes back. However I didn't know that up to now the problem has not been resolved. The community was supposed to assist. Since the iron sheets for the roofs blown off are still there, there is a need for the community to mobilise themselves to deal with the problem," Hausi said.
Senior Group Mkando says the community has already started mobilising resources to make sure that the roof is back on top of the classroom blocks.
"We are told that the classroom blocks need to have ring beams. We are just waiting from officials from government. We are really very concerned that our pupils are learning in these environments. There is need to do something urgently," the chief said.
MP for the constituency Gleneger Msulira Banda said poor workmanship on the classroom block has led to the recurrence of the problem.
"This is the second time for the school blocks to have their roofs blown off. The first time this happened I sent materials, but poor workmanship resulted in this second incident. I will however make sure that the roof is put back using Constituency Development Fund [CDF]," Banda said.
Civil Society Education Coalition (CSEC) blames the situation at Kavuwa on government's lack of commitment to up-lift education standards.
He says in the absence of quality infrastructure school system creates push factors towards school dropout
"If pupils learn in such an environment, they become reluctant to go to school. As a result there will be high dropout rate. In the end, it will have an implication on the achievement of access to education," he says.
He urges government to be serious in uplifting education standards in the country.
"Our politicians note the problems we are facing in the education sector but they are doing very little to address them. We see government running the education system using the Act of 1962. We need to formulate policies that will stand the test of time," adds Kondowe.
He says since government started reviewing the Education Act in 2005, seven years down the line, little is being done to have the Act in place.
He also notes that government is yet to seriously implement a policy on minimum standards of school construction which he says, among others, stipulates that wherever a school is constructed, there should be offices, a head teacher's house and at least a teacher's house.
It is now the tenth month since the Kavuwa had the roof of its only two main classroom block blown away. As the wait for the replacement of the roofs continues, it is clear that it may not be today or tomorrow.
And the school may be just one among many across the country, operating in substandard structures. One thing which is clear is that this will have a bearing on the achievement of millennium development goals on education, let alone Education For all (EFA) goals by the year 2015.