Friends of Pakati – Vision

This page contains the original 2019 project and the 2020 vision set out at the beginning of the year. Now we have the latest vision statement following Covid 19 and its effects on Friends of Pakati.

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Here is something I have written, very much a personal explanation of Friends of Pakati.

There are times when I am transported back to my time at Pakati Secondary school. It could be the taste of some African food, the sound of a familiar Zimbabwean song, hearing someone speaking in Shona, or watching TV documentaries about people and wildlife in Africa. Many things really. They remind me of what it was like to live in rural Zimbabwe. I think back to all those I knew – staff, students, parents, friends from the community – and wonder how they are, what they are doing, are they still around?

It brings back memories of everyday things – mostly very different to what I was used to here in the UK. I feel it is good for me to have experienced such a life for those 30 months. It has opened my eyes and my mind, such that I consider myself to be quite adaptable.

I set up Friends of Pakati towards the end of 2018 after revisiting the school. I saw developments, but also some things which might have improved over the years have remained the same. Always at the forefront of any school, wherever it is in the world, are the students as they pass through.

I can remember going into classes at Pakati early in 1989 struggling to understand much of how the students (and staff too) would speak, and I am sure it was the same in reverse. Like many things, it took a bit of getting used to. Accent, food, climate, living conditions, getting around, school organisation, the way things got done. What saw me through was the extraordinary feeling of welcome I got from everyone, with patience and forgiveness (I am certain I did & said things which made people wonder about what I was doing there).

Gradually we got used to each other. I settled in, I built friendships, some of which are with me to this day. As I began to enjoy life at Pakati, I spent more weekends in the area rather than going to Harare every Friday. I went to the shops at Chigwada 40 minutes walk away. I went to Musami, usually by bus, sometimes on foot or a lift. I got invited to peoples homes to visit, eat, drink, chat, see around the homesteads. All of these made me more at home, more accepted in the community. I have to add generally speaking, teachers are well respected, and there is a great desire for education.

Which brings me to what I want to say – what Friends of Pakati is about for me personally. I think back to students I taught who were very bright among their peers. Some got good results at O level, but I wonder…how well could they have really done if Pakati’s facilities matched those of bigger, better funded schools, some even not so far from them? I believe students who acheived well at Pakati (and any other similar school) would have matched the best at those other institutions. This blog has shown real grinding poverty does not have to prevent a bright student from succeeding academically. Where help and support can be provided, the education of ALL students can be improved regardless of background. If bright students can improve, so can the rest. If a student is less academic but good at practical subjects, or sports, then improve their facilities too. Raise the whole school, raise every student. This will raise the community itself.

The vision that has been set out, comes from consulting current staff of both Pakati schools, but also other interested parties such as former students, local community leaders, and at least one former teacher.

Justification for what Friends of Pakati is doing came from someone close, Bothwell Riside. See his article copied and published here:

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Following discussions with several people, I have reviewed the situation regarding Friends of Pakati and its current vision. I believe that it needed some revision. Covid 19 has set the world back several months, and looks like it will continue to disrupt things for some time, with local outbreaks, lockdowns, easements, and uncertainty being the norm.

The overall aim is to help to improve the education for the students at the two Pakati schools – Primary and Secondary.

Here are the priorities, but they cannot all be met without a significant increase in funding. The result means asking what CAN we do with the funds we have/will have. We see that getting the donations of IT (& any other items) out to the schools will be the main target for the coming months. Internet provision we can only hope for at this stage, whereas helping poorest students retain access to education, and the improvements to the learning environment we think are necessary, are acheivable without a huge cost. We can use local tradespeople to help us.

More computers – we have a promise for at least 13 more machines, but extras will be needed (monitors, cables etc.). They will need transporting from here to the school as last year.

Internet – connecting Pakati school students to the internet will revolutionise teaching and learning at both schools. Until then, schools computers will be of limited use no matter how many we can send.

Learning environment – by this we mean everything, inside the classroom and out. The equipment, facilities, desks, seating, books, materials, decor, flooring & ceilings, We mean all of these things for teachers and students alike. Staff who have the equupent to teach and students who have the facilities to learn will both surely benefit, and create a virtuous circle of improvement.

Help for the poorest – one thing we have learned from several former students noted on this website, is that a poor background does not mean poor results or low achievements. Where we can, we should try to help the poorest students to get and retain access to education. This may be part of occasional joint ventures with other organisations where it is decided practical to do so.

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2020 Vision

The Author being greeted by Mr Mugove Chifaka,
Head of Pakati Secondary school, September 2019

Following the success of ‘My Project for 2019’ and all that went with it, 2020 Vision lays out the aims for this year, and how we hope to achieve them.

As already mentioned in earlier blog posts, discussions have been carried out with interested contributors, and a list of priorities has been put together to reflect those discussions. They are as follows below:

  1. Internet: The first few computers delivered in September will come into their own once the internet is available. It offers students and teachers access to so much more information, advice, and educational material.
  2. Printers and paper: With a lack of available text books, then once internet is set up then a printer for each school will be useful, so they can print out copies of relevant material, e.g. things like past exam papers.
  3. Security: Both schools will need additional, improved security for the rooms in which the computers will be used. Better burglar bars on the windows and additional door security is needed.
  4. More computers: In order to offer formal IT lessons, each school needs at least 10 computers. Currently they both have 5, so extra ones are needed. This will raise another question though – electricity supply. At present the supply is irregular, and both rely on solar power during the day.
  5. Text books: It is sad to see that even now 30 years on from my time as a teacher at Pakati Secondary school, there are too few text books for the number of students.
  6. Desks/seating: As with books, not enough desks and/or seats for the students. On top of that, there is now a requirement for seats with back support for the students.

I would like to add something else into the mix too….the overall classroom environment inside could use a spruce up, as could the admin block at the Secondary. Ceilings, a lick of paint, doors and windows? I believe the Primary would also benefit from similar improvements. The schools budgets are stretched, so I appreciate that these things would not be their highest priorities. However, depending on how much can be raised, friendsofpakati.com will try to cover as many of these stated priorities as possible during 2020.

Further details on fundraising events and ideas are now on the blog.

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My project for 2019

January 16th, 1989 & 2019

30 years ago today, I started work as a teacher at Pakati Secondary School in Zimbabwe, through the international development charity, VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas).

There is, as you would expect, a story behind it all, but that’s for another day. Today I am launching a fundraising project to help both the Secondary & Primary schools buy much-needed IT equipment.

This all came about following my holiday in Zimbabwe in September 2018, when I paid my first visit to the school since 1992. I was moved by the very warm welcome from the school & local community, and even though the current Head teacher Mr Chikafa Mugove had heard of me we had not met before.

I went round the school with him & some of the staff, looking at developments since I worked there. There have been several changes, but the Head said if he could have computers at the school it would help the students immensely, and if the Primary School was also involved then it would help longer-term in improving education in the area. I am in regular contact with the school in Zimbabwe & other local organisations who are willing to help e.g. getting electricity connected to the classrooms – already there at the admin block, local transport from Harare to the school.

On my return I looked at what could be done from here to help the schools, & there are some companies who refurbish used IT equipment, adding software, and then sell them on with shipping costs to the capital, Harare. I am in contact with one in particular – Computers for Africa – in order to fundraise towards the costs – approx. £8000 depending on how many we can buy – I have now set up the following:

Website: https://www.friendsofpakati.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/friendsofpakati

Facebook: https://facebook.com/Friends-of-pakati

Email: friendsofpakati@gmail.com

Fundraising: http://gofundme.com/friends-of-pakati