It’s better than nothing – a resilient community builds makeshift school
By Sharon Kavhu
IN THE south-east of Gidiratonga forestry in Shamva District, Mashonaland Central Province, lies a ramshackle, rudimentary, makeshift and disconcerting structure that over 100 primary school pupils call their school.
Built on a cleared piece of land surrounded by indigenous Msasa trees, the make-shift school made of pole and dagga now looks like a scarecrow after being ravaged by heavy rains that have been incessantly pounding Zimbabwe over the past weeks.
From a distance, the site appears like a traditional Khoi-San chief’s homestead as the four structures are built in a semi-circle with only one block stationed at the centre.
However, on closer inspection the thatch has turned into a greyish colour, which contrasts sharply with the normal thatch colour commonly found in Southern Africa.
And instead of having bricks and cement, the structures are supported by dagga and wooden poles made from mopane, muonde and musasa tress readily available in the area.
The poles are levelled to the same height leaving at least a metre from the roof for ventilation. This is Karara Primary School, a satellite school for Shamva Mine Primary school.
“We officially opened the school on January 10 this year and it is actually a break-through for our community. For the past three years we have been pleading to the government to allow us to put up a school here but, the process was taking long,” said Blantina Mupwayiwa, the ward councillor, Gidiratonga.
While many across the region may condemn a formal school built with poles and dagga in this day and age, it is actually a blessing to hundreds of primary school going children in the area.
“Having a learning institute for our primary school children at Karara was a necessity as hundreds of these children were walking at least 23 km to the nearest school, which is Shamva Mine Primary; others used to walk approximately 30 km to another school called Kushinga Primary,” she said.
“Honestly, after walking such a long distance, it becomes difficult for a child to concentrate in class due to fatigue.
“On the other hand, we received several reports of our girls being sexually abused and impregnated along their way to school last year; and this has also contributed to the surging numbers of Grade 7 children failing to proceed to secondary education due to early marriage and pregnancy.
“As such, the community advocated for the construction of a satellite school closer to the children,”
The Ward councillor said the Gidiratonga community put their efforts together in clearing the land and building the structures for the school.
“As parents we started working together in clearing the land, cutting the trees and thatch for building the structures in 2014. Initially, we constructed the block for ECD where we also crafted wooden tables and stools for the children to sit,” said the current secretary of Karara Primary School, William Kashiri.
“Eventually, we constructed the other four structures in the preceding year. In 2017, we managed to build two blocks of blair toilets with four holes each and a cement floor. We also managed to build two blocks of shelters with bricks and cement for the teachers who are yet to be assigned by government to teach the children.”
The structures at Karara Primary School are a temporary reprieve, as the community is hopeful that the government and well-wishers will in due course assist in building a standard school.
Legislator for the area, Joseph Mapiki told The Southern Times that the community had gotten together to mould earthen bricks that will replace the poles and dagga.
“While we seek help from our government and well-wishers in the development of the school structures, the community has already moulded 300,000 bricks towards the project,” said Mapiki.
“We still have a long way in standardising the structures of this school especially considering that it is located in a poverty stricken area.
“Some of the children come on bare foot, others cannot even afford to buy books or pay school fees as such they end up bringing livestock as part of their fees.”
He said teachers were still coming to teach at Karara from Shamva Mine Primary School on regular basis.
“Our wish is to have teachers staying here than commuting every day because the road is bad especially in this rainy season when public transport is scarce.”
Mapiki said the development of Karara Primary School is a positive step in the promotion of education in his district.
“Before government’s approval of making Karara a satellite school of Shamva Mine Primary, many children dropped out from school due to the long distances.
“This is why we are having children aged 12 registering for Grade four or five,” he said.
“The long distances have also disturbed informal education program that was put in place by government to give young adults a second chance for learning.”
Besides, Karara Primary School, Zimbabwe still has similar few makeshift schools Mandimu and Masau in the same Mashonaland Central province.
President Mugabe last year officiated at the transformation of Murongwe Primary School from pure pole and dagga structures to standardised brick constructed structure built with the assistance of the Air Force of Zimbabwe.