Another chance to read about….The day I was surprised…

A unique opportunity came my way…read on..

Life at Pakati had settled down to a gentle pace by 1990, and after 2 years I decided to take a trip home. Flights were paid for by VSO, along with an extra allowance for extending my contract to the end of August 1991. The intention was to study for a Masters to start in October that year.

I went home to spend time with family at Christmas in Scunthorpe, followed by New Year with friends in Bradford. At times the contrast between my life in England and my life in Zimbabwe was remarkable, but at the beginning of January 1991 I could not wait to return to Pakati.

On my return to the school, I learned that Mr Samakomva, the Headmaster, had fallen ill and was unlikely to return. After going to the Primary school to consult with Mr Rugoyi (their Head) about the situation and to get the key for the schools post box in nearby Murehwa (2 bus rides away). He suggested I visit the Ministry of Education staffing offices there.

I talked at length to the Staffing Officer about the school, and he promised me he would sort things out for us. I set off back, and made my way to Musami, a small township a few kilometres from Pakati. I went to a local store which had a cafe, ordered some sadza ne nyama and waited for the bus back to Pakati, due around an hour later.

While I was waiting, talking to a friend in Musami, a woman came up to me and said to me ‘Are you Mr Walker? I said yes, I am. She then handed me a letter, introducing her as a new teacher at the school, but it was addressed to:

Mr C Walker

Acting Head

Pakati Secondary School


Carrying the signature of the Staffing Officer I had spoken to less than 2 hours before….

From Newly Qualified Teacher to Head teacher in 2 years was quite a surprise to me that day to say the least!

Reposted: Further memories from the Author…

More of my recollections from Pakati 30 years ago…

Continuing on from my previous story about a non-existent light switch, and having read through all of the early posts on the blog, I thought I would tell another little story about my time at Pakati.

A 40 minute walk from the school is a small township called Chigwada. In 1989 it was little more than a single store, Hamamaoko Stores, owned & run by Thomas Gombera and his wife. About 10 minutes further is a low sloping hill, with an overhang above a cave, from where you can look right aucross the area. At the back of the cave are some rock paintings dating back around 1500 years.

Me with the future Mrs W, along with Thomas Gombera (right) the store owner who introduced us in 1991 in the Pakati area

I went to see the rock paintings one day, a bit of a clamber, but a slip on my way down meant I had to struggle getting home with what was a twisted knee. Next day a Monday, I could barely move so stayed in my bed. In the house I shared with 2 local teachers, the lady who had the room next to mine came out, walked into the kitchen area & as she went out of the kitchen door, spotted a snake in tbe corner. She ran out screaming ‘Nyoka, nyoka’, banged on my window shouting Chris, can you get rid of the snake (nyoka)…difficult as I couldn’t move!

At the rock paintings in 1989 with Mr Chirape,
a teacher of Shona at Pakati Secondary School

In the end, two other colleagues came into the kitchen area with long sticks, and got it out of the house. As it had probably followed some prey into the house, it was considered the snake would return, so sadly had to destroy it. They later identified it as a Black Mamba, one of the most dangerous snakes in Africa…

A reminder of other memories from 1989

I have some very vivid memories of life at Pakati…some of the teacher profiles further down in this blog hint at life there 30 years ago. For me it was all new to begin with, but as I got used to the area I explored more & more.

I lived up to my name – Walker – more than at any other time of my life. To get to the bus stops took between 25 & 30 minutes, to get to the nearset store took 40 minutes. To walk to Musami between 1 hour 20 & 2 hours depending on how high the river was. I walked a lot back then!

I wrote & recieved letters from home & friends as regularly as possible, turn around was about 2 weeks. My brother subscribed to the Guardian Weekly for me. I had a radio & cassette player & a torch. I had a solar powered battery charger. I explained in letters about how little water you need for showering when you have to hand-pump it & carry it 50 metres yourself…but with the (shared) house provided, no electricity & no running water meant no bills! Got to take a positive view.

I shared a house with two Zimbabwean teachers & we took turns in cooking, relying mostly on localy produced food & tinned goods. Fresh produce like eggs, chickens & vegetables were brought to the teachers to buy, from local farmers like Mr Masawi, an old friend of mine who I met again recently.

Mr & Mrs Masawi at their store in Chigwada, September 2018

One thing I remember early on, I had been there a few weeks so thought I was used to it all. It got cloudy & very dark as the rain was about to fall. I quickly walked to the classroom I was due to teach in, and the instinct of reaching for a light switch took over without thinking….the students looked at me as if to say ‘what is he doing’? No electricity, no light switch….

Another earlier post…Memories from 1989 – my own early days at Pakati

Some of my earliest memories.

The then Headmaster of Pakati Secondary School, Mr Samakomva, made a request to VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas, an international development charity from the UK) as he thought they needed a qualified Maths teacher, and Zimbabwe was not producing sufficient numbers of teachers to staff the rapidly expanding education sector.

Most of Pakati staff, 1989

I had applied to VSO in 1988 as a newly qualified teacher, an idea planted in my head by (coincidentally) a Zimbabwean friend and his family. Having been accepted & then posted there, I arrived at the school on a Saturday, before starting work as a teacher at Pakati on Monday 16th January, 1989. I was met first by the Deputy, Mr Nyamauya, then on the Sunday, by the Head & other staff.

I had basic household equipment & some food to get by on, but it was daunting to say the least….new job, new country, new language, new culture, new sights, sounds, tastes & smells, new ways of doing everything. No electricity & no running water…plus heat, mosquitoes, difficulty in getting around. Much to learn but a challenge for me. But…it was me who put myself in that position so I just had to deal with it, no matter how different things would be.

To be honest, the first few days were a bit of a blur, as the Head took me round the various Ministry of Education offices in Murehwa (District), Marondera (Provincial) & Harare (National). I did start to settle as I started to teach, getting used to how people spoke – and them getting used to understanding how I spoke too.

In my first term, initially I couldn’t wait to get back to the city – Harare – for the modern conveniences. By the end of that term I couldn’t wait to get back to the school if I was away for any reason. I had learned to love the place, I felt settled. It is a place where I was made so welcome by all, and I still feel the same to this day 30 years later.

Repeat of an earlier post….How the school got its name

A favourite story of mine.

When the original Primary school, which was built largely by the local community, was under construction, there was a dispute between two families who lived nearby. They both wanted the school to be named after them. They were both involved in the building, both had children attending from day one. As neither would give way, the families eventually came to a typical Zimbabwean compromise, and decided to call it Pakati, which in the Shona language means ‘in between’.

Daniel….the ‘Walker’…his thoughts on the Walk

27th April 2019 at Scunthorpe United FC restaurant

Author: Why did you decide to join your dad on the recent walk from Bradford to Scunthorpe?

Dan: I wanted to make sure my dad didn’t have to do it alone, not least because he is nearly 62!

A: How did you prepare for the walk?

D: I had done some hiking before, and didn’t suffer too much. Being only 17, I am fairly fit due to playing a lot of sport, such as football and rugby. I also went walking with my dad to help him get ready for the walk himself.

A: How did Alice (your girlfriend) get involved with the walk?

D: It was Alice who actually persuaded me to do the walk, to support my dad. She also came with us on some of dad’s preparation walks. She took many of the photos of the walk for us.

Alice & Daniel

A: Sum up your experiences on the walk – what did you enjoy most? The biggest challenge? How did you feel afterwards?

D: I most enjoyed completing it as I got a feeling of satisfaction from knowing I was helping raise money for Pakati schools. Biggest challenge – getting out of bed each of the days! Afterwards I felt both tired and happy, but also proud of what all of us (including dad’s friends Karen & Brian) had accomplished together.

Karen, Brian & Daniel
Dan & Chris

Update time…follow on from ‘What we need’

Next week I am going to pick up the donation of 4 computers and 1 Laptop from a company called The Stephenson Group based in Horsforth near Leeds. I am hoping to help them with any publicity they might wish to arrange.

Current total showing on the fundraising page is £880 with a number of other promises of further donations, largely from the selling of collectors items – football shirts in particular.

I have messaged a number of other football clubs, and had a positive response from one so far. Match worn shirts seem to have the highest value, especially if they are signed by the player(s) concerned.

I have a contact for shipping the computers, so am in contact with him about getting them transported to Zimbabwe & then to the schools.

We still need more donations in cash, in kind and/or online. If you can help…