Written by Chris Walker:
Greetings dear friends & followers. After a difficult time for Friends of Pakati, I finally got a really pleasant surprise in the last two weeks! I have had a number of issues to deal with, not least of them being my bereavement following my father’s passing & funeral fairly recently, and difficulty with my access to the Friends of Pakati website (still ongoing). I am immensely grateful to all members of our team for their wonderful support in all matters!
So, about two weeks or so ago, I heard from a certain teacher who was at Pakati Secondary for the year 1990. He shared the same house me, and we definitely became good friends. I was very disappointed when he did not return to us in 1991, but that was very common with temporary teachers during that time. His name? Mr Takawira Siyawamwaya… I am sure students present at the time will remember him!
The start of 1990 was, as I recall, typical of rural schools in Zimbabwe at the time. Some staff had stayed, whereas others moved on. I remember Mr Syawamwaya joining the school, along with a Mr Mutimbanyoka, and they were always friends it seemed to me. Also there were Mr Tsuro, Mr Kamuti & Mr Mango new to Pakati, along with established teachers like Mr Samakomva (Head), Mr Nyamauya (Deputy), Mr Choga & Mr Gororo.
Mr Siyawamwaya moved in to the house I stayed in, and we hit it off very quickly. As with my former housemates from 1989 (Mr Mutatapasi & Mr Chirape) we usually cooked together. Obviously, I could not cook the local staple food so Siyas (for short) would do that, and I would cook either the meat or the sauce/relish. So we nicknamed each other Mr Sadza (him) & Pakati Chef (me) as he just reminded me the other day! More of his memories further down…I wanted to know what he has been doing since he left Pakati at the end of 1990. Where did he go first?
Well he has travelled quite a distance since leaving Pakati…he went to teach at Chipinda Secondary school in Mureha District, where he stayed until the end of 1993. He tells me that while there, he successfully applied to Mutare Teachers College, training to become a teacher between 1994-1996. Following this, he was deployed to Mufudzi Wakanaka school, in Chivhu District, not far from Wedza, where he was now qualified to teach both English and the local language, Shona.
He recently told me “I transferred to Chitowa in the Murehwa District in 2000, from where I moved to Hokodzi Secondary school in 2004, and I have been there since.” Below is a map, showing the proximity of Hokodzi and Pakati schools…I can remember visiting Hokodzi for inter-school sports during my time in Zimbabwe, only last year I passed through Kadzere Township a couple of times. If I had known Siyas was there, I would definitely paid him a visit!
During his time at Hokodzi he did further studies, at Africa University in Mutare between 2013 & 2015, graduating with a B. Ed. degree in English. I am very impressed by this as he was also Acting Head at Hokodzi for 10 years up to 2017, and since then he has been Acting Deputy Head.
I asked him to tell me more about himself, and here is what he told me: “I now stay in my village, with my wife Betty and I walk the 6km to & from school every day. I am married to a woman from my area and we have 3 children. First born is a boy, Edward (1997), who is in Harare doing software engineering with a local company. Second we have a girl, Helen (2002) who completed O Levels (GCSE) and is still staying at home looking to do further studies. Third is another boy, Anotidaishe (2011), currently in Grade 5 at Primary school. For me with Betty it was love at first sight, we lived in adjacent villages. It took time to get her consent but she was beautiful, very much worth marrying, which we did in 1997”
Back to some more of his memories of his time at Pakati now…I asked him about it, and mentioned things like cooking, colleagues & the store nearby which had just opened that year in January, here are some of his comments, reflecting some of the realities in Zimbabwe at the time:
“When you asked me to share the kitchen & food, I was hesitant because I had never had such experience with a white man. I was particularly impressed by your selflessness as you literally provided for my food. I remember the condiments, omelettes, and a French drink (Cointreau – an orange flavoured licquer I brought from duty-free after a visit home at the end of 1990). You didn’t eat bones (chicken mostly) as they were, you said, for the dogs! (I look back in horror sometimes…it was clear people ate what they wanted, & I should not have been so dismissive just because I didn’t eat them). You were indeed the Pakati Chef!
We also went to Chigwada (a small township of only a couple of stores in 1990) for parties, where you provided food, and revellers brought their own beers. We went climbing up into the hills nearby, particularly at Gwangwadza where the rock paintings are. You were indeed good to us all Chris, and we enjoyed being associated with a white man in rural Zimbabwe.“
What I hope to do soon is get him on the phone, maybe on Zoom, and record a podcast with him, myself, and our regular podcast host Bradley Mell.
Our next few blogs will be about an imminent reunion for Friends of Pakati, plus maybe another slightly different one in the near future, a couple of potential new podcast guests – plus developments at Pakati Primary school – exciting times ahead for us!