Educating Zimbabwe’s most disadvantaged children through community participation
By Richard Nyamanhindi
3 September 2013 - The school motto, printed on the white board in the small school office, is simple: “Education is a necessity”. It is appropriate. A firm belief in that simple truth led the people of this community in Mutasa District in Manicaland, to establish Nyamukwarara Primary School.
The school’s Acting Headmaster Mr. Freddy Mufunganzira sits in his small office – a space meant to store books for the school. It is dimly lit – the school has no electricity. It is clear, though, as he talks about the history of the school, that he is proud of what has been accomplished in the past seven years.
Nyamukwarara was established as a satellite Child Friendly School in 2006 following the relocation of more than 200 families who were displaced by Operation Murambatsvina/Clean-Up Campaign in 2005. With the assistance of parents and volunteers the first classes were held under a tree.
But the parents of this resilient community dreamed of bigger things for their children. With their own hands they made mud bricks and have been supporting all the construction projects at the school. Their hard work attracted the attention of international organisations including UNICEF and the International Organization for Migration who stepped in to lend a helping hand.
The ‘little’ school has grown by leaps and bounds with enrollment currently at 213 pupils (110 boys and 103 girls). Instead of children having their lessons out in the open, the school now has four classroom blocks that cater for all the children at the school including an Early Childhood Development (ECD) class.
With the support of UNICEF, the school has managed to complete a teacher’s house, construct toilets for the pupils, furnish the classrooms and recently received a grant to purchase more books to cater for the increased enrollment at the school.
Mr. John Bhebhe, the School Deputy Headmaster recalls some of the extraordinary children who have passed through Nyamukwarara in the past few years. Three girls now doing their ‘O’ Levels have fought against all odds and Bhebhe says he has kept in touch with them always encouraging them never to give-up. In his words the girls have been “brilliant and phenomenal”, and have brought pride and joy to the Nyamukwarara community.
Education is not the only thing that disadvantaged children are getting at Nyamukwarara. A few metres from the classroom blocks stands an exuberant vegetable garden. Here pupils and parents work together to cultivate produce that is sold to the surrounding community. The proceeds are used to fund some school projects including paying school fees for orphaned children. “When there is extra produce we give it to vulnerable children and when we sell, the money goes into a fund that pays for orphaned children,” says Mrs. Sekai Mandaa the School Development Committee Deputy Chairperson.
There is much that Nyamukwarara still needs beyond more classroom space: a clean water source, toilets and housing for the teachers. As well, there is no nearby secondary school; after finishing primary education the majority of the children have to walk more than 20 kilometers to the nearby secondary school. The headmaster says some of these challenges will be overcome as long as the current community cohesion continues to exist.
The Child-Friendly Schools initiative in Zimbabwe promotes the rights of children and aims to improve the quality of primary education through a set of multi-sectoral interventions. The program also empowers children to voice their opinions, and uses various forms of media in the social mobilization of communities in order to promote the rights of every child—particularly girls.