Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Zimbabwe: "School of peace" - volunteers teach poor students in Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe, some youths in the Mutare suburbs have taken it upon themselves to fill the educational gap that's harming local children. The educational entrepreneurs are all Catholics and call their initiative the "school of peace." at least 400 school children have enrolled in the school, the initiative at sacred heart of Jesus Christ Roman Catholic parish church, where volunteers are teaching classes. The lessons began in mid January.

The initiative is the brainchild of a group of friends including Andrew Dirwai, who completed secondary school last year. He says he and his colleagues decided they wanted to contribute by keeping younger children out of mischief. Dirwai says,"We realized most children were now fond of playing games and in mischief most of the time forgetting there is school. This is as a result of the prolonged school holiday. We had to chip in and offer ourselves to do our part despite not having any formal training in school teaching."

Another founding member, Arthur Mzama, says he's been surprised by the influx of learners. He says the size of their classes continues to swell, "Many children are coming for the program. We are amazed by the interest from them and the support from their parents who are sending them to us. Ours is voluntary while some are charging for the education which i think most parents are finding it difficult to afford as the professional tutors charges in foreign currency."

The Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ church, the center accommodating the education program, seemed a shambles as volunteers tried to divide youngsters into classes according to their ages.

Melody Chiguware was having a tough time trying to keep excited toddlers quiet. She said she's delighted to be imparting some of what she's learned to deserving and eager youngsters, "I offered myself to this duty realizing children were being deprived an education at a time when it is crucial as they are tomorrow's leaders. Having nothing much to do at home after completing secondary education I find it noble to do something for my community."

Another of the voluntary 'tutors', Nomatter Kativhu, explains if children spend some time in the classroom, rather than roaming the streets, they retain some of their focus and self-discipline. He explains their group could not sit by idly while the government gave the go-ahead for a continued holiday.

We are all teenagers who know the importance of education. We are beneficiaries of a good education ourselves though it was not the best, but what we are realizing is that our youngsters are bound to lose if we just sit and watch. It is better we do something than stare and do nothing."

The work of the volunteers is being supervised by retired teacher Dorothy Jonga who also runs an early developmental & educational center. She too is a member of St .Gideon's. The experienced educator is concerned about the lack of infrastructure, including an absence of shade,

"Our work is moving on well but as the children are increasing in number we are now faced with a shortage of chairs. It is the rainy season and not all of the children can be accommodated in the church temporary shelter, some have to sit outside in the open, exposed to the sun, wind and rain. If [we] can have a tent and benches it would help us a lot."

However, she's quick to add she's thrilled in the interest shown by local children who're eager to learn. The children are accommodated in a wooden shelter on the church's premises. The program caters to learners of every denomination.

Published with the permission of Voice of America
Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
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