Follow-on from a previous blog post, ‘The day I was surprised’

After accepting my new role as Acting Head, I found a number of things needed dealing with….

Visit to the Staffing office once more to explain which teachers we were short of….duly rectified with new arrivals later that week.

Timetabling…finally got to use the coloured felt-tip pens I had bought in the UK.

Prefects….discussions with the staff on Head Boy & Girl plus prefects. An agreement reached after an hour or so.

Parents meeting organised…not like ones in the UK. It is a day -long community event. Setting a 9.00 start time was largely irrelevant, as they turned up after finishing their work in the fields for the morning. I, along with the then Deputy Mr Veremu (who later replaced me as Head in 1991), introduced ourselves, discussed many things including the school finances, & plans to buy the books & desks so desparately needed. They went home mid-afternoon, seemingly satisfied with the meeting.

Visit to the Provincial offices in Marondera to see the Ministry of Education officials about getting equipment for the school and asking for an inspection to make sure the school was complying with regulations.

So, after setting these things in motion, one day I was waiting for a bus, at the stop by the school sign board, to take me to Harare for the day. After a while, a couple of members of the family who lived close to the stop approached me with the usual greetings – which can take a while – but said something else along with it. I asked them to please explain as I hadn’t understood. They said ‘now we call you ‘Gushungo’, it is your totem now. (Yes I now know who esle has that totem…it wasn’t an issue back then!). They went on to say it is because of: you are the Headmaster of our school, you always use our bus stop, plus you made our children Head boy & Head girl, so you must be one of us! You are Gushungo now!

It is only years later that I (only slightly) understood the significance of it, what an honour it was to have bestowed on me. It meant I was well & truly accepted by the community. Even now I dont really understand all of the meanings, or rights or responsibilities it may have brought (so if you do know, please explain as much as you can!), but safe to say I am still delighted by it. So thank you to the Njenje family. I haven’t forgotten.


My name is Chris Walker, and between January 1989 and September 1991 I worked, through VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas), at Pakati Secondary School in Murehwa South district in Zimbabwe. I was a Maths teacher for 2 years, the Acting Head for the last 8 months there. I have also taught in Botswana & the UK, had 4 years working for VSO, and have been a Civil Servant in Bradford since 2005.

Leave a Reply