As can be seen from the picture above, I have made it down to 99.3 kg (14.1kg loss) or 15 st 9lbs (2st = 28lbs loss). It is ongoing now until 1st October this year in terms of fundraising. However for my own health and well-being, I do intend to continue for as long as I can.
What this has meant is that some colleagues at my workplace have lived up to their promise to donate once I got to 2st lost! In the last few days therefore a total of £87.00 has been added to our total – to find out how well we are doing, see our Fundraising page at https://friendsofpakati.com/fundraising/
Having spoken to Debbie Chadbon recently, I hear she is planning to do something herself to raise funds for Friends of Pakati. Originally she was set to do a 10km run in Bristol where she lives. Due to the Covid 19 outbreak, it got cancelled. Now I hear she still plans to do a run of some sort, gain local publicity, and hopefully will get sponsorship ftom that. Fingers crossed🤞🤞
How can you help? From the 2020 Vision page mentioned above, it is not just computers that are needed. To provide access to the internet really would open up the students to a modern learning experience. Redecorating the classrooms would enhance the learning environment. Providing furniture and other classroom essentials would improve the students motivation. To support the poorest here really would be lifechanging. Please donate whatever you can, whenever you can and spread the word among your contacts.
Well, where to begin with this story? I think it best to start at home. It is the story of my friend, and a key Friend of Pakati, Mr Bothwell Riside. His family home is very close to Pakati Secondary school as can be seen in the picture below.
Bothwell’s story is one of hardship, hard work, and a determination to succeed in life. It may be difficult to believe some of this tale, but as I have had the privilege to live and work in this community, I can personally vouch for much of it being true. I also had the honour to stay at Bothwell’s family home for a few days last year, an experience I treasure.
It is almost impossible for those who have spent their entire lives in developed countries to understand just what it is like for people in places like Pakati. Those of us who have spent time in such places have gained an invaluable insight into the lives of a rural African community. Let’s hear from him, mostly in Bothwell’s own words, here is at least part of his story….
Tell us how it was growing up and going to school at Pakati:
“I have been through a lot in my life. I have experienced the real abject poverty whereby you will have almost nothing. I know of not having a meal, and the issue of sleeping on an empty stomach. I have experienced decades of going to school barefooted, often with no breakfast, inability to have clothes, growing up without knowing what a tarred road looks like or not knowing any urban electrified area.”
What was it like for you, given your circumstances at the time?
It was never easy when l molded bricks to go to school (to pay for school fees), and did menial jobs to ensure l finished it. But where there is determination God blesses. Where l am today is no reflection of my past. I don’t blame my parents for anything, for giving birth to me and fending for me as what they did was quite enough and l thank them.”
I have contacted others who know Bothwell, and some are willing to give us their memories of him as a young boy. We can hear from Mrs Maenzanise, who taught Bothwell at Pakati Primary school. She is now Head of nearby Mapanga Primary school; she gave a typical teachers answer!
What do you remember about Bothwell back then?
“He was a very inquisitive, competent young boy. He had neat hand writing. and was soft spoken. We often used to send him on office errands.”
Back to Bothwell himself. The man I know is always willing to share his thoughts about his past, and can be said to be a bit of a philosopher….below is something he sent to me recently, calling it ‘Creating an advantage frrom a Disadvantage’:
Tell me what you mean by that, please Bothwell?
“Well ‘Rural life is horrible ‘, some say. ‘Oh, you are an SRB’, l have heard these names calling. SRB is an acronym for strong rural background. Well, today l thought of dedicating my time talking about an advantage in a disadvantage. Growing up in a rural setup like Pakati secondary school may appear a great disadvantage with some students cursing their lives and parents for such. But today l have come to let someone see twinkling light in what seems to be a darkness. There are a lot of advantages in the disadvantages.
Can you expand on that please?
“OK, firstly, Health – Most of the food you eat in rural areas are very healthy to the body. There are plenty of vegetables and both indigenous and exotic fruits. These are good for the provision of vitamins. Research has also indicated that sweet potatoes, which are a common diet in Murewa, are good at preventing cancer. Students in rural areas walk long distances like up to 8km to and from school. The distance walked is enough exercising, so that there is no need to think of an early morning jog, gym or any other facilities. Besides this, working in the fields, looking after cattle, or doing work and sports at school keep one healthy. Ailments will not follow a healthy person.”
Yes I can see that. Anything else?
“Secondly, being focused. Urban setups have a lot of distractions for children. Too many people plus social media can distract a student from learning. Rural students with enough support and motvation may do better than their counterparts.
Furthermore, It is interesting to move and stay in an urban setup from a rural area. And you can troop back to rural areas without being pained again. A rural child in urban areas finds life good, while an urban child in rural areas would curse his or her life. Mostly rural children in urban areas have a rich knowledge of their culture and identity, while an urban grown to child does not know some rural ettiquetes. Urban brought up students may never know what rural areas are.”
Here are other people’s thoughts on Bothwell’s progress from childhood:
“…He so much values Education…it is what has transformed his life”
“Bothwell is in his element in a classroom, whether in a rural setting or an international school, or indeed even online.”
“Bothwell is a well of knowledge. I first met him in the ward 14 group when we were preparing to receive Chris Walker in September 2019. From the onset I saved him as Dr B and upon meeting him, he confirmed his true status as a Dr in education. He really impressed me with his ability to translate Shona into English and vice versa without any hiccups. You will not miss him with his eloquent speech. Even though he speaks so fluently as if he was raised in the UK you will never mistake his love for Zimbabwe. I have heard about him speak with passion to see this country succeed. I read that he said “I will always maintain my love for this country…. because Zimbabwe deserves to be a great country!”
Here is a quote from him on his Education at Pakati, taken from the Foreword he wrote for the booklets recently to exam students at 5 local schools:
“If there is anything I am forever grateful of it is my being a former student of Pakati Primary and Secondary schools. They have literally equipped me with skills which others do not have….if ever you have a chance to learn, you must utilise it.”
Soon after my visit in 2019 he left Zimbabwe for South East Asia, where he now teaches in an International school. Since the outbreak of the Corona virus, he has like so many teachers the world over, been conducting lessons online.
Still to come on Friends of Pakati:
Fundraising news & updates
The return of Pauline Machengo’s story ‘Outside Zim Borders’, plus news of Pauline’s other work..
Below is a remarkable story, sent to me by one of my own former students, Lorraine Mapuranga, who I remember and know well. She may already be familiar to readers as she has contributed to this blog previously several times. I will add my own thoughts from my own memories of her further down. Please read on…
“Good day Mr Walker. Hope you are fine and staying safe there. Let me share my story from childhood. I am proud to be one of the typical village girls, it best describes myself. No-one can ever tell me what life in a village looks like because I was born in Chidawaya village, I grew up there, went to school in the area, and only left the village life when I was 21…Since then I have lived and worked in cities like Harare and Johannesburg.
Growing up in a family where we were only girls was quite challenging for me. All the duties which in other families are done by boys, but for us we had no choice. The worst of the duties that I hated most then was herding cattle when it’s raining. Growing up as a girl, I learnt a lot of things at a very tender age. Tilling the land, cleaning the home, washing laundry and dishes (all by hand) were just some of the duties which we had to learn.
When I started going to school it was quite far, as I did my Primary at Chanetsa. Imagine a 7 year old walking for more than 8km to and from school..but that was then. I only got to know why it was good then to learn life the good way and the hard way because you never know what package life has to offer. I moved to high school at Chidiya Secondary for Form 1, then went to Pakati Secondary school for Form 2 to Form 4. I’m happy that I had a taste of different schools and different experiences of life.
I remember coming to Pakati in 1990 and how I was scared of the Headmaster then Mr Samakomva, after being told by fellow students that he was a no nonsense taker. Also for me the first days were so difficult because me and corporal punishment were enemies… I was scared of being beaten, though this kind of punishment was seen as somehow reformative. If I was late for school I would really think of a plan such that I would never be seen by ‘Dread’ (Mr Samakomva as we used to call him cos of his dread locks). I got to know what he did not like, and luckily I was never called to his office for discipline.
I also met my new teachers, some among them I’m still in touch with, such as Mr Nyamauya, Mr Walker and Miss Chadbon. It was not difficult for me as a new student then since I joined my mates from Grade 7 at Chanetsa Primary. I had parted ways with them at Form1, but also met them again, and others from the local community.
I would like to believe things change with time. We used to make our lunches from home and at school we did not do it a one man game at lunch We could gather like 3 or 4 pupils then share whatever we had mostly fruits in season like mangoes, guavas, peaches, mazhanje (a common wild fruit) and some cooked grains from the fields. I want to believe this has been happening even after I left the school. However I believe it’s likely to change now when schools finally re-open due to the new lifestyle that comes with covid19. No more sharing of anything…
During my time at school, wearing of school uniforms was not a prerequisite as you can see in some of the pictures..not that it was not mandatory but I think it is because teachers understood the difficult times we were living in… But I think it would have been better if the rule to all wear uniforms was strict, because the way we dressed then exposed our poverty to others and contributed to loss of confidence. I really liked the way I see the current students in their blue uniforms and black shoes. Well done to the parents for cooperating with teachers on being strict on this.
At school we had time for study after lunch hour and as well I used to study at home on weekends. I remember finding my private place to study when I’m home. I used to go at a nearby hill around our field where it was quiet and away from home to avoid noise. It was cool and refreshing there. I’m also glad that the school now has electricity and computers. If Wi-Fi becomes available to the school then all the better, since this will help students to study online – especially now during the trying times of covid 19.
The best times I have enjoyed life were at school..When you are at school no matter what the circumstances those are the best days!!! I got to learn a lot and seeing myself grow from childhood into adulthood. I liked athletics and volley ball at school. Mixing with other students and teachers was great too. I would like to see some improvements on availability of furniture and stationery at the school. I know how difficult it was then to share 4 textbooks in a class of 40. More stationery means better ways of studying and passing exams which is the core aim of any school That will make life better for the learner.
Thanks to the teamwork between VaTonatsa Foundation and Friends of Pakati, for a resourceful crisis management plan to provide exam study packs for the schools. Applause👏🏽 to all the parties involved. Well done too to the community leaders for being part of the school projects. Just wishing all the students to work hard and appreciate the extra mile that these philanthropic organisations have done.”
I asked Miss Chadbon for her comnents, about how she remembered Lorraine from her time teaching at Pakati Secondary school. Here is what she had to say in reply:
“Hi Chris. I’m well thanks – how about you? Here are a few comments about her: ‘Lorraine was a lively, very friendly student who was enthusiastic and hard working. She made the most of opportunities and I remember thinking she would do well, which has proved to be the case. Lorraine helped me to understand the life of local Zimbabweans and I remember having some very interesting chats with her after school. It has been great to be back in touch with her after all these years and rekindle our friendship’.”
For myself, I remember a bright and inquisitive student who was always quick to laugh. Also very eager to learn about many things be they academic or not. It has been a real pleasure for me to be re-connected with her after so long, to see her and meet her family and friends last year. She is transformed from the rural schoolgirl I first met in 1990, into a working mother living in Johannesburg, South Africa, still deeply proud of, and rooted in, her rural background.
Well…This story has really taken me back to my time at Pakati 30 years ago! I have been remeniscing in 2 phone calls just yesterday, first with Debbie Chadbon, then later with Lorraine herself. It is clear we all have an enduring friendship from a shared experience, and all three of us have some amazing memories from the time when our lives overlapped at Pakati.
The company who donated a number of items last year, the Stephenson Group from Horsforth in Leeds, have promised even more for our next shipment. After speaking to IT manager Stuart Pine earlier today, they have at least 13 PC’s available for us, possibly a few more. We still don’t know when we will be sending them to Zimbabwe yet, either April/May or Sept/Oct in 2021 are possible.
So far we have had two people actually accepted an invitation to become Trustees. I have had confirmations from both Stuart Pine – see above – and my fellow former teacher at Pakati Secondary school, Debbie Chadbon. I have contacted others and am waiting for their responses, plus a couple more to contact and discuss it with. I think 5 would be the optimum number at this time. Naturally, I myself will also be one of them. I am using a combination of websites for advice, including the government’s HMRC, and one called http://charitysetup.org.uk . However it is not a straightforward process and will take some time to complete.
Following consultations with various stakeholders in Friends of Pakati, some limited promotional adverts will be added on facebook and possibly twitter to try and increase/generate more interest in us, and hopefully more traffic to the website. Keep an eye out in the next week or two…
I have a number of items in the pipeline, including the following: New chapters from Pauline Machengo’s longer tale of life in South Africa, more former Pakati students tell their stories, plus an update or two from more regular contributors. All this on top of the fundraising, IT and charity updates to come!
The stories were due to include the phased re-opening of schools across Zimbabwe, starting with exam classes this coming week. However, due to a sudden unexpected spike in Covid 19 cases, that has now been put on hold until further notice. No word so far on what will happen to those exams which were planned for this year.
I am inviting new contributions from any who read this blog! Are you following us? Are you a former student or teacher of either Pakati Primary or Secondary school? Would you like to tell your story? Do you have any comments or suggestions to make? What would you like to see on the blog? Do you have any ideas on more fundraising activities? Can you help spread the word using your contacts on social media? Tell us what you think, ask any questions, about ANYthing you see on here. Please do let us know your thoughts. Contacts as follows: email@example.com://twitter.com/friendsofpakatihttp://facebook.com/Friends-of-pakati
I have recently had contact from Fatimah Baye, a former student of both Pakati schools. The surname was familiar to me, as I do remember at least two students from my time at the Secondary school in 1989. James Baye and Rita Baye were both in the Form 3 class I taught that year, and according to Fatimah, they are indeed relatives of hers. Sadly, I heard only last year that Rita passed away some time ago. I understand that James is living in Harare, and I am hoping to make contact with him soon.
Here is Fatimah’s story….starting at the Primary school
“I’m from Chinhoyi village (not far from Pakati Primary school), and I started learning at Pakati Primary in 2007 when I was in grade 5. During that time Mr Mushangwe was the Head, unfortunately now he is no longer with us. I was taught by Mr Maruhla, Mr Kupara and Mr Jury, and they helped me a lot. At Pakati I enjoyed being in the school music choir, and I enjoyed playing volleyball games. I still remember when I was in grade 7 in 2009 we reached the District level playing volleyball and I was among the selected members.
Next stop…Secondary school
Then in 2010 I started my education at Pakati Secondary school, where I also enjoyed playing volleyball. I was taught by many teachers there, including Mr Chifaka (the current Head), Mrs Katonha, Mr Chizenya, Mr Magabaza, Mrs Vanhuvaone, not forgetting my Fashion and Fabrics teacher, Mrs Mwaashidzana.
Being at Pakati was very exciting for me, as I learnt a lot of things there. The thing I liked the most at Pakati is that in my year, I was the the only one who passed Fashion and Fabrics. I think it was just that I liked the subject very much, so I used much of my time doing that which I enjoyed most.
The most funny moments I still remember is that when we were at school school during lunchtime I and my 3 friends we would ask anyone we knew with their garden nearer to the school, and we then went to garden to eat some mangoes, guavas and sugarcane. Then one other day my friends decided to go by themselves after lunch, and the owner of the garden came to school scolding them and she reported to the head that they were stealing her guavas and stepping on her maize. Those friends of mine were embarrassed in front of the whole school, lucky enough for me I wasn’t among them that day😁.
The other thing is that during the general work time I and my friends we would go and hide in the fashion block sewing our garments while others are working….
I completed my ordinary level at Pakati in 2013, and I attained 8 subjects. I went to a teachers college in 2017, and I completed last year in November. Now am looking for a job. I am not yet married, but am at home in Chitungwuza (a large suburb on the edge of Harare) waiting for deployment to a school. That, so far, is my story.”
Many thanks to Fatimah for sharing her story with us! We do have at least one other story in the pipeline. In addiition, the next Chapters in Pauline Machengo’s tales of life in Cape Town, South Africa are coming soon. Schools across Zimbabwe are beginning to prepare for return to classes under new Covid-19 rules for PPE, hygene and social distancing to keep staff and students safe. As I get information from the 2 Pakati schools, I will update on here as usual.
So going from the end of this recent post… http://friendsofpakati.com/2020/07/07/pakati-memories-part-2-sports-entertainment-and-so-much-more/ …..after the ‘promotion’ to Acting Head, the first thing I had to do was notify the staff. I have to be honest here, not everyone was happy about it. There was a scene of sorts at an assembly one day, where one staff member seemed somewhat upset…I will not name him…but for my part, I had simply made sure he got the transfer he had requested, and he left soon after.
One of the newest staff at the school (in those days the turnover was quite high) was a young man named Owen Veremu. He was a new University of Zimbabwe (UZ) graduate, which at the time, made him the next highest qualified teacher after myself. The turnover of staff had left me with little alternative than to make him my deputy, with the idea of training him up to take over as I was due to leave for home in September that year. I was particularly honoured that his family invited me as their guest at his Graduation in Harare.
It was a very interesting time for me, learning the ropes and passing it all straight on to Mr Veremu so he could step straight into the role when I left. I got good advice from Mr Rugoyi, then Head at Pakati Primary, plus from the staffing office in Murewa, as well as the Ministry Of Education at the provincial Headquarters in Marondera.
We arranged an inspection so that we knew what needed doing, and using the school fees generated, bought things such as new desks, books, Science gear and football kits. While in the UK over Christmas and New Year, I had bought some felt-tip coloured markers, and ended up using them when creating the timetable, colour-coding each teacher!
Chasing school fees became an issue…the Secondary schools have to charge fees to help fund the necessities like books, desks, equipment, also building materials and schools sports gear. My predecessor had chased students away from school if they had not paid, and I followed suit. It wasn’t always successful, as some would wait until the Head had gone round class to class, then sneak in/back in! I understand it didn’t make me popular with everyone either… I don’t know if that still happens today.
I had my first parents meeting/AGM during that first term. I was very nervous as I went through the accounts in some detail, with Mr Veremu doing the tranlsations. I should not have wrorried, as the parents said they had not seen any of this before! The 9.30am meeting kind of started around 1pm, as we waited for many to turn up after tending their fields. The community is predominently one of subsistence farming, and this was a busy time of year for them. They backed everything we asked them to, and I was glad of the obvious support we were getting.
My time as a staff member came to an end at the end of August officially, during the school holidays. Myself and Maxine Ison celebrated our time at Pakati ending firstly with a presentation from the students, and I dont mind admitting it brought tears to my eyes. Even now, looking back, I do feel a bit emotional as I remember how I could hardly speak at that time – it was a real wrench to leave the school. We then had a wonderful party at Taluu stores, plenty of food and dink and chatting and laughter and some sadness, but an extraordinary adventure for me was almost at an end.
As Acting Head, I decided to stay around and ran some extra lessons for exam classes. Teachers took turns in being around for one week out of the four, but I was waiting for my parents to come from the UK for their second trip. (I also had to see the Ministry officials in Harare as I was owed an extra allowance for being Acting Head. They paid it just before my parents arrived, so I could enjoy my holiday.)
During this time at school, I first met Vee, who became Mrs Walker & moved to the UK. She had relatives in the area including younger cousins who were pupils at Pakati. We married locally in Marondera in 1992, then formally in the UK in 1993. There is a little more further down this post about our children too.
Shortly before I left Pakati, new VSO volnteers had already arrived in Zimbabwe. The Field Director decided it would be a good idea that, as part of their induction, they should visit a volunteer placement not too far ftom Harare, and he chose Pakati. Part of the reason for that was that two of the new volunteers were to be placed there. They were Jayne Beattie, and Debbie Chadbon. We visited a nearby homestead (Mr Madziva & family kindly hosted us) for a meal. After travelling in Zimbabwe with my parents – more on this below – I paid one last visit to the school, to see how Jayne & Debbie were getting on, before flying home the the UK, where I had enrolled on a Masters degree to start in October.
One interesting aside – volunteers usually had an employer reference written for VSO by their line manager. Usually this would be done by…the Head. So, as I was the Head, effectively I wrote my own reference…..(under VSO guidance of course)!
So far we have searched for and failed to find either Jayne Beattie or Maxine Ison to ask them about their experiences at Pakati. The same is not true of Debbie Chadbon, found by our friend Bothwell Riside, and so we are delighted to say she has become increasingly involved with Friends of Pakati. Debbie did send me an email soon after which turned into this post http://friendsofpakati.com/2019/11/16/saturday-star-a-blast-from-the-past/ in November last year. Now she is promising more about her own personal experience to post on here along with more pictures. Can’t wait!👍
My parents paid a second visit to Zimbabwe in September 1991, and we travelled around the country again, during a time when it was a very popular tourist destination. We visited Victoria Falls, Hwange National Park and the Eastern Highlands, around Nyanga. In 1990 we also managed Mutare, Bulawayo and Great Zimbabwe as well as taking them to Pakati to see where I lived and worked. Below are just a few pictures from my numerous travels around the country.
What next? Well as I mentioned above, I went back to University, this time in Leeds, to study for an MA in Development Studies. After Vee came to join me in 1993, I was working to earn a living for us both. An opportunity then came up in 1995 to teach again. In Africa. I was interviewed by a 3-person panel, one of who turned out to have been a VSO volunteer in Zimbabwe! The job was in Francistown, Botswana, allowing us to travel to Zimbabwe to see Vee’s family fairly often. I worked again as a Maths teacher from May 1995 to December 1997, at Mater Spei College in Francistown, not far from the border with Zimbabwe. The first pic below is taken in Francistown, where our first child Masimba (who was born in Zimbabwe in 1996) was about 5 months old. I am definitely blessed to be the proud father of our two sons, Masimba is now aged 24, and Daniel is 18. Both are heavily involved in technology, one is working in IT, the other going to University soon to study Audio Engineering. Both share a love of music.
Since returning from Botswana in December 1997, I have taught in the UK for a total of 2 years, worked for VSO doing recruitment campaigns and events for over 4 years, and for the last 15 years I have been a Civil Servant in Bradford. Since September 2018 I have been so happy to have become involved again with Pakati schools and the local community, and will continue this association as long as I am able.
I have revisited Zimbabwe in 2018 and 2019, and spent time at the schools. Above are just a few of my pictures ftom them both. Delivering the computers last year was a genuinely wonderful experience, days I will never forget as long as I live.
One final sunset picture, taken very close to Pakati Secondary school, September 2019.
The overall view from all the people involved, and from the local communities, is very positive indeed. We feel vindicated in our efforts, and think that it has been well worth all the hard work. The feedback from the schools and others tells us all we need to know, some of it is shown further down this blog.
In view of this new collaboration, Friends of Pakati felt the need to boost its limited finances, and requested donations to help us contribute significantly to the venture. As a result, we added £300 from those generous enough to donate. Key to this was Roj Rahman of Mortz Property Service in Scunthorpe (the Author’s home town), and fellow former teacher at Pakati (also ex-VSO) Debbie Chadbon.
Below is Roj’s reasoning for giving to Friends of Pakati, for which we are most grateful as we may not have been able to help quite as much without it:
“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be involved and make a contribution to a very worthy cause. Knowledge is power and to help the next generation move forward to achieve peace, prosperity and progress is through education. I wish you and Friends of Pakati and VaTonatsa Foundation to continue the excellent work and wish you all the best of health and continued success. Roj Rahman Mortz Property Services”
This is how our agreement has worked out – 159 students at Pakati Primary, Pakati Secondary and Chanetsa Secondary school students are covered by Friends of Pakati, while 115 students at Mapanga and Chanetsa Primary schools are covered by VaTonatsa Foundation. The split of US$500 : US$302 is not far from a fair reflection according to the 159 : 115 student split.
Delivery at Pakati and Chanetsa Secondary schools is shown below:
From the very beginning of this joint venture, Friends of Pakati and VaTonatsa Foundation have worked tirelessly together to bring it to fruition. We have collaborated with ideas, and with money, but definitely with a co-operative spirit that has been refreshing. The successful outcome has been entirely due to this co-operation. I think it is right that we include as many of the names as we can of those behind the initiative, from start to end.
For VaTonatsa Foundation, it has included Vari Marez, Yvonne Ncube-Zulu, Chiedza Manhera and Celia, all pictured. Also making notable contributions are Tashinga Muyengwa and Mildred, but there may be others too I am not aware of. I have to say I admire their work ethic in getting everything organised locally to produce and deliver it all to the 5 schools.
For the Schools, Mr Mugove, Mr Mahachi, Mr Mawedze, Mr Kadzimu and Mrs Maenzanise/Mr Vhuso. I would also like to thank all of the teachers at the various schools, whether I know them or not, for the incredible work they do to educate their students, in addition the School Development Committees and backroom staff who are also vital in supporting the learning environment.
From Murewa Rural District Council, thank you for approving the dustribution of the booklets, Dr Gurajena and of course, local councillor for Murewa Ward 14, Alderman Israel Maliki.
Last but not least, Friends of Pakati. Started by myself, but the inspiration to continue and to develop it comes from regular contributors and correspondents, such as former students Bothwell Riside and Lorraine Mapuranga in particular, both of whom I know very well personally. These have also more recently been added to I am delighted to say by another former teacher, Debbie Chadbon.
Here are some of the comments we have recently received about this joint initiative:
Mrs Maenzanise, Head of Mapanga Primary sent me this messsge: “Hello my friend Chris. Thanks so much for bringing our area to greatest height. Our learners have been introduced to a new thing in their lives. Revising while at home with the help of relatives and friends during the covid period. We really appreciate your love and help for them to excel in their school work. The material will go a long way. At our school almost three quarters have collected to date. Only a few who live far will collect this coming week. Thanks to all others behind the scenes. Be blessed”
From Mr Mawedze, Head of Chanetsa Secondary school: “Hello Mr Walker. Chanetsa Secondary are greatly appreciating the great effort you made to suport our form 4 learners with these booklets Our teachers and learners work is going to be that much easier. May God bless you sir. I am going to send you photos we were taking to witness this wonderful occasion.”
From social media:
William Elias said “May God bless you more……we thank you for your response.”
Antony Munyaradzi Chafa: “You’re doing a very good work for my community, I really appreciate everything.”
Thonsi: “This good deed will go far and wide in building the community and changing lives. Thank you Vatonatsa and Friends of Pakati.”
From Vari Mayez herself: “
On behalf of VaTonatsa I want to say thank you to Alderman Maliki for unifying and supporting us. I want to thank Mr Walker and your team like Lorraine, Bothwell etc. I thank all the teachers in the ward who made this a success, our leaders in the community, the Village heads allowing us to come in, and the parents represented by all SDC members, thank you. May this love live on!
Efforts like this are invaluable to the students, and many more will benefit from them in the future. They are free to the schools, as VaTonatsa Foundation and Friends of Pakati have themselves paid the approximate cost of US$800 in total between us. We have done so by raising funds (see above) and for us at Friends of Pakati, our meagre resources have now reduced significantly in spite of the recent donations. We now have less than £190 in the bank, so before we can do much more we will need further injections of money. They can be in small sums or large, from individuals or groups or businesses, we don’t mind. Please do give if you can, wherever in the world you are, so we can continue to help. Thanks to all of you who give via http:gofundme.com/friends-of-pakati or use the paypal links on the side and at the foot of this blog.
Here I am at the (then new to me) signboard for Pakati schools, in September 2018, just before my first visit to the school since 1992. It re-ignited my interest in the school and community, giving me the chance to at least partially repay them for an unforgetable 32 months from January 1989 to September 1991. Below are more of my experiences, feelings, thoughts and descriptions of my time at Pakati. I have posted some of these in earlier pieces here on the blog, but I feel they deserve to be part of a larger story. Firstly, here is how the school got its name…
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 – the Chihumbiri’s and the Chinhoyi’s (the Primary school was actually known as Chinhoyi school initially). 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’.
First term at school – January to April – usually means sports, in the form of athletics. Running, jumping, throwing. Pakati has often produced some very good athletes, and it is a tradition which seems to continue. For me, the memory is of one particular girl, Juliana Chiroodza, who excelled in sprinting, and proved very good at high jump too. Below are pictures of Juliana in action, and of the most recent successes, Paidamoyo Lynn Mutemeri, Winnie Masiya and Beauty Mugule.
Class sizes seem to have changed little over the years, in my first year, 1989, Form 1 had 2 classes of around 50 students in each, similar in form 2. Form 3 had one class of arould 70, and Form 4 was around 40 students. I taught Maths to forms 2, 3 and 4. I seem to recall teaching Commerce too, but I am a bit vague on that😁.
There was entertainment around at Pakati, in various forms. One time we had a drama group come and give a short play about the dangers of AIDS, and a local lad strung a wire up between two trees, then did what is best described as a low-wire act…I also remember one evening/night someone came with a film projector and some short films, mostly in English, and included a fair few music clips, which were then projected onto a wall of the Primary school. We sat were we could, on the floor or a small raised area which I think as an anthill of some sort.
For myself, entertainment at Pakati was a mixtute of things. I had a radio/cassette player and a number of cassette tapes with music I loved, I listened a lot to them, local ZBC radio, and the BBC World Service on a Saturday afternoon. This allowed me to catch up with football scores from the UK, especially to find out about my favourite club, the mighty Iron – Scunthorpe United FC. My elder brother paid for me to receive The Guardian Weekly – a version of the UK national daily newspaper. I wrote and recevied many letters from home, mostly my Mum (on behalf of Dad), occasionally my brothers, some friends from college and a girlfriend at the time. I also read a LOT of books. I borrowed them from volunteers, from the British Council Library, and used book exchange shops and book retailers in Harare.
Weekends at Pakati often involved going to Chigwada in my first year with it being the nearest shops, and one of my favourite memories of walking there has been reported on this blog before, but is well worth repeating – the best question I have ever been asked:
To get to Chigwada was a 40 minute walk. 30 minutes to get to the dirt road, then walk along it, round a curve in the road, before walking towards the store past the grinding mill. At the apex to the curve there was a homestead and one day as I walked past, I was asked the best question anyone has ever asked me. I heard a voice of a small child, a young girl of maybe 5 or 6 years old, and as she ran from her home to the gate to greet me, she said at the top of her voice:
‘Why are you?’
To this day I am unable to answer. But I did respond after a short stunned silence:
‘I am fine and how are you?’
She ran off clearly delighted, laughing all the way back to her home.
Here are some pics around Chigwada area…
After about a year, a new store opened much closer to the school, called Taluu/Taloo. It was owned by a lady from Harare, run by her mother. We were now able to buy basic items much closer to home. When Maxine Ison and myself ended our time at Pakati, the store threw a big party for us, with many from the community and both schools in attendance.
Away from Pakati, I will talk about travel and tourism in a later post, but any weekend I was in Harare, or occasionally Mutare, myself and fellow VSO volunteers would look for fims to watch at the cinema, restaurants to eat at, or live music to watch. These are the bands I remember seeing during the 32 months I spent in Zimbabwe – The Real Sounds of Africa, the Four Brothers, Oliver Mutukudzi, Jonah Moyo, Robson Banda, Stella Chiweshe, Biggie Tembo, Musi & Ilanga, The Runn Family – at a number of different venues. We did sometimes go to other volunteers places too, and some came to visit at Pakati.
One thing I do remember early on, I had been there a few weeks so thought I was getting used to it all. It got cloudy & very dark as the rain was about to fall – something it did with spectacular results of heavy rain and forked lightning across the sky. 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 means no light switch….
During my second year, 1990, I became involved in a small scale development project at the school, following visits to other volunteers and what they had done. I spoke to our Head, Mr Samakomva, and we came up with an idea for an agriculture plot with fencing, a borehole and a water tank. I arranged funding via the British High Commission, who had a small-scale development fund we coould apply for. We did have a celebration event at the school, with the High Commissioner in attendance along with local dignatories.
Over time, the fencing and tank have gone, but the now community borehole remains, being well maintained by the Murewa Rural District Council’s District Development Fund. It is a legacy I am delighted to have left for people to use.
There was, around the area, lots of animal life and not all of it was as harmless as a gecko on the wall! There were ants and beetles, geckos and cockroaches, large spiders which seemed to be seasonal, snakes, scorpions, bats, chameleons, and a wide variety of birdlife.
In 1990, the staff was joined by a new VSO volunteer, Maxine Ison from Sheffield, who came to teach English. She was at Pakati from September 1990 to August 1991, leaving at the same time as I did.
From another earlier blog called ‘The Day I was Surprised’, here is what happened to me from the end of 1990…
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 returned 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 go 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 (2 bus rides away..) Murehwa. He suggested I visit the Ministry of Education staffing offices there.
I talked at length to Mr J J Matanhire, 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 (local food – maize, beef, relish and green vegetables) 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
Pakati Secondary School
Carrying the signature of Mr Matanhire, 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 to say the least!
Good to end on another gratuitous sunset. More to come….my time as Acting Head, more pictures of former staff, students and people I knew, family stuff. Also, as Zimbabwe was a great tourist destination (and can be again) I will illustrate stories about my adventures away from Pakati school where I can.
Saturday 4th July 2020 marked the end of our joint venture with VaTonatsa Foundation, seeing the O Level (GCSE) booklets produced and delivered to the two remaing schools. Some masks were also provided, according to Vari Mayez of VaTonatsa Foundation…“Tine ma mask atichakupai 😷 !” (There are some masks which we will share with those present, some are branded, others plain). Pakati Secondary and its sister school Chanetsa Secondary finally received their packs, and this blog celebrates that delivery.
During the previous week, Vari and her team managed to ensure the production of the booklets was completed in time for the pre-arranged delivery on the Saturday. Here is what happened at the two schools in picture form:
Vari Mayez is seen with Yvonne Ncube-Zulu, Trustee of VaTonatsa, buying bread & fruit for the school Heads and SDC members. They collected Councillor Israel Maliki from his home, before setting up first at Pakati Secondary.
In the pictures can be seen Mr Mugove Chifaka, Head of Pakati Secondary in the white shirt, along with Mrs Darangwa, SDC member wearing blue, and local youth leader Mr Z Kandikita in the red shirt. Councillir Maliki once more is seen wearing the football scarf I gave him last year, for the Iron (Scunthorpe United). Some of the masks donated are shown being worn.
Mr Chifaka had this to say about the delivery of the booklets:
“On behalf of Pakati Secondary school, l thank Friends of Pakati and Vatonatsa Foundation for their work in favour of Ward 14 learners. The examinations books they prepared for us will be of great use to the learners and will prepare them for their final examinations.
Today we received the the books which contain examination questions for all the subjects offered by Pakati and Chanetsa secondary schools. These books are very important for for the learners’ revision and examination practice.
I also thank the teachers who privided the soft copies and Vatonatsa Foundation and Chris Walker (for Friends of Pakati) who filled the gaps of some examination papers that had not been submitted.
Thank you Alderman Maliki for your assistance and support. We promise that the books will be kept safely to benefit other future learners. May God bless Friends of Pakati and Vatonatsa Foundation by giving them more streangth to continue their invaluable work.”
From Pakati, the next stop was Chanetsa Secondary school.
In the pictures at Chanetsa can be seen the Head, Mr Mawedze (black jacket), Mrs M Panwandiwa, SDC member (long pink dress), and other SDC members.
Ina speech given by Mr Mawedze at the event, he said among other things, that “….it is still a young school, but with the hard work of the teachers across Form 1 to Form 4, they are excelling academically. These booklets will help us maintain that success during these difficult times. We are very happy to receive them, and thank the efforts of those behind it all, particularly VaTonatsa Foundation, Friends of Pakati and Councillor Maliki”.
All in all, another wonderful day, where Friends of Pakati is delighted to have been associated with VaTonatsa Foundation, and appreciate all of their efforts and those of the Councillor in bringing the venture to a successful conclusion.
I will post a blog soon on the back story, in some detail, with more pictures and information. In addition, I have more to post about my personal recollections still to come.
Allow me to begin by mentioning certain musical things which happened in the time leading up to my departure to Zimbabwe in early 1989, that definitely had an influence on me. They stretch back into my College days when as I said in the recent blog post, https://friendsofpakati.com/2020/06/29/how-did-i-end-up-at-pakati-2/ I met a Zimbabwean musician and his family here in Bradford, the city in which I have lived mostly since 1984.
The band he played in were called ‘Somebody’s Brother’, and I went with several fellow students to see them play wherever they were on, over a period of several years. Cecil Zinyuku (from the Headlands area of Zimbabwe) played bass guitar & sang, and I remember their wide mix of music did include some African songs from him.
Every year there was a music Festival all across the city in lots of venues, and I also remember seeing some African acts playing. Most notable were Mahlatini & the Mahotella Queens of South Africa, and my favourites, the Real Sounds of Africa of Zaire (from DRC), then based in Zimbabwe. I also listened to a radio DJ called John Peel who championed Zimbabwean/African music, especially the Bhundu Boys and the Four Brothers. Paul Simon’s Graceland album of 1985 had opened my mind to African music, and by the time I got to Zimbabwe I was already a big fan…
So, as I set out for Zimbabwe in January 1989 I was at least partially prepared, though a long way from being ready for what came to pass in the 32 months I was there. Here are several of my recollections, feelings, thoughts and experiences, some of which have been told in shorter posts much earlier in this blog, including http://friendsofpakati.com/2020/02/09/some-memories-from-the-author-and-why-we-need-support-for-pakati/ among others. Where possible, I will tell them in chronological order, but as I am now 30 years older, I may not be that accurate in my memory!
As I described in the last few paragraphs of the previous blog, my journey from England to Zimbabwe was broken up with a brief, unscheduled stop over in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia. My first taste of Africa was not as I expected…but it did make arriving in Harare that much better, as it was a much more modern looking city than Addis.
My first taste of Zimbabwean food was on the day I arrived, a Tuesday, at a training centre North of Harare. Sadza – made from the staple, maize – with chicken, vegetables and a sauce/relish, was not to the liking of all of us there (we were 12 newly-arrived volunteers), but I took to it immediately. The training had initially been planned for the whole week, and was meant to include a fair amount of language learning. The delays caused by the stop-over meant VSO chose to cut out a lot of the language time sadly, as there were many more practical things to do, such as health briefings, acclimatising to the city, buying necessties, meeting staff & other volunteers. Then the preparations for the Saturday departure loomed large – but one night out in the city to watch the Four Brothers at Jobs Nightspot was just too tempting…
My arrival at Pakati was late on the Saturday, 14th January 1989, as I was the last of 3 volunteers being dropped at their new placements. Sunday was my first real day there, and I was welcomed and shown around the school area by Mr Nyamauya, the Deputy Head, and introduced to some of my new colleagues.
In all honesty, I remember very little of that first day, other than the looks on the faces of the students as they struggled to understand how I spoke at first. I have a vague recollection of an early lesson with a large (to me) Form 3 class of what I think was around 70 students, all crammed 4 together on benches/desks designed for 2. I was a Maths teacher, and I think it was about triangles!
Life at the school was very different to anything I had experienced before…I shared a house with two local colleagues, there was no electricity or running water, and the nearest shops were about 40 minutes walk away.
There was a borehole some 50 meters behind the house, and I did have some basic household equipmemt to use from VSO. We used parafin stoves and gas to cook & power a small fridge, candles and parafin lamps for light, plus I had a small solar charger and rechargeable batteries. We used one room for bathing, with the windows covered, as we had a tub and were able to heat water on the stoves. I learned to adapt very quickly.
After the initial shock and excitement of arriving, I did settle down, gradually getting used to my new situation. The Head, Mr Samakomva, had shown me round the Ministry of Education offices locally in the first week, but I also spent my first weekend in Harare with other VSO volunteers, making friends and learning how to survive, including getting around by whatever means possible…
I got used to living at Pakati, and for the most part, thoroughly enjoyed myself there. I have to admit I was a bit lazy in terms of learning Shona, but in mitigation, Zimbabweans generally are very good speakers of English, and among the students who weren’t so good, they wanted to practice their English by talking to me. Among the staff, all spoke good English.
My two housemates were George Mutatapasi (Brown cardigan, centre of front row) and Regis Chirape (Check jacket, front row, end right). Just in front of me holding a text book is Mr Nyamauya, whose daughter Cynthia shown below is now 33!
Mostly we did our own washing & cleaning, at least to begin with. Eventually, in return for paying school fees for some students, teachers would get help with chores…
So, in the early months, I settled down to life at Pakati, adapted to the change in pace of life, got used to the weather, understood more of how Zimbabweans spoke, and lived, especially out here in the rural areas. Getting to and from work has never been easier!
In the next part, I will talk about things like classes, sports, entertainment, animals, travel, tourism, and many other things besides….what better way than to end this part with sunset at Pakati in 1989!