How did I end up at Pakati?

Here is the story behind how I came to be a teacher in a rural school in Zimbabwe…

It began in Sheffield really, in 1984. I was out of work & a bit lost to be honest. A friend of mine told me she thought I would make a good teacher, suggesting I applied for a teacher training course which would start in September that year. She also thought the best way to find out if I would enjoy it would be to volunteer in a local school.

I worked 2 days a week at a Middle school (ages 8-12), for 5 months, supporting a class teacher but also trying some lessons under his guidance. I ended up being invited to join them on a couple of school trips. When it came to the interviews for the course I had some good experiences to draw on, and knew I would enjoy teaching.

I trained at Bradford College, a 4-year B. Ed. (Hons) 1984 to 1988. As a student, I went out with friends, drinking in local bars where there were live bands playing. I watched one particular band often, who had a Zimbabwean bass player. I got to know him and his family well. His sister once asked what I was doing, and when I told her, she said “oh, you should come to Zimbabwe, we need teachers”. The idea was planted in my head…

As I completed the course I started applying for teaching jobs locally, but without success. Another friend thought I hadn’t really tried that hard…

One weekend as I walked through Bradford city centre I saw a large double-decker bus parked up, with the letters VSO ( Voluntary Service Overseas) on the side. I had heard of them, so was intrigued enough to go on board and find out more. I picked up some leafets & an application form. I filled it in & sent it off…this was August 1988. Within a few days I got invited for an interview….this turned out to be a whole day, early in September, with different activites including a 1 – to – 1 interview, brief lesson planning & delivery examples, and group discussions.

10 days later lying in my bed in my flat, I heard the post arrive. A thud hit the floor. I knew before looking what it was – I had been accepted by VSO. Their letter had lots of information in it, with plans for my pre-departure training. Also by this time I had a temporary job which lasted until the Christmas period of 1988.

Throughout this time VSO were trying to source a job for me. It started with Sierra Leone, but they turned me down as I was a newly qualified teacher. Then it was the Solomon Islands, but that fell through as there was a coup, so no new volunteers would go there for the time being. It got to early December, I had done all the training….I had nowhere to go. Then out of the blue…

….Zimbabwe came to my rescue! I just wanted to go SOMEwhere..I said YES straight away, and things moved very quickly. By early January I was getting everything ready, for a departure from London Heathrow Airport on friday night, 6th January 1989. My parents and some of my friends came to see me off, quite an emotional time I can say….

Part 2 to follow….


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.

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