While I was moving from being a student teacher into a potential VSO volunteer, Mr Samakomva, then Headmaster of Pakati Secondary school, was approaching VSO in Harare to ask for a new Maths teacher for the school.
There was an arrangement between VSO and the Zimbabwean Government, specifically the Ministry of Education. Schools could request a teacher from the UK if they could meet a basic standard of accommodation.
VSO staff would visit the school more than once before agreeing to send a volunteer there, and a serving volunteer would also visit to do a report. The outline of VSO’s report combined the findings of both staff & volunteers, and it was sent to the prospective volunteer back in the UK.
The report I recieved about Pakati made it interesting to me….VSO staff’s part of it was fairly factual – ‘the school is in a remote rural area, east of Harare, with access by dirt road. It has around 300 pupils & 10 staff’. The serving volunteers part, who taught at a school North of Murewa, was more intruiging….
‘Pakati has a remote but pleasant feel about it. There is a small township a few km away (Musami), around an hours walk depending on the height of the intervening river (and the mood of the crocodiles…)’
My departure (along with 11 other new volunteers) turned out to be an anti-climax…we were booked onto a flight with Air Ethiopia, due to fly that Friday night, 6th January 1989. Having done the goodbyes, we waited…waited…and finally….
…our flight was cancelled! We were taken back through customs & booked into an hotel close by. We were fed & watered, then 24 hours later, we took off for Addis Ababa. On arrival, it became clear that there was no connecting flight to Harare until the Tuesday, so the Airline had to put us up in another hotel, in Addis, until the Tuesday. Our adventure had begun in an unexpected way…2 days & nights in the Ethiopian capital proved a real eye-openee to us all.
We did arrive in Harare on the Tuesday afternoon, to be met by VSO staff. We were taken to a training centre where our in-country training had been reduced. By the Friday evening several of us were ready for a night out, & ended up at Jobs Nightspot to watch the Four Brothers play live. Very enjoyable!
Saturday 14th January meant we were being taken to, and dropped off at, our new schools & homes. 3 of us went together, along with the volunteer who had done the report about Pakati. Firstly, Darren was dropped at Shamva, then Lucy was dropped near Mutoko. As the afternoon wore on, we finally arrived at Pakati. The other volunteer, Mick, helped me settle in by staying overnight.
Sunday 15th. I met the Deputy Head, My Nyamauya, and several staff for the first time. We went around the school and to the nearest store, 40 minutes walk away, where I met several members of the local community.
Monday 16th January 1989, my first official day as a teacher, is now a blur…I remember very little of it if I am honest. But it was, as they say, the first day of the rest of my life. An experince I will never forget, and I will always be grateful to Pakati school and the community for the opportunity to become one of them.
That, dear readers, is how I came to teach at Pakati 30 years ago.