New Year, old memories, plus similar problems

January, 1990. Having spent the festive period back in the UK at the end of 1989, Christmas with family in Scunthorpe, then New Year with friends in Bradford, I returned to Zimbabwe after a brief stay in London in order to fly out from Heathrow airport.

Original signboard for Pakati Primary and Secondary school.

If I recall correctly, schools re-opened on Tuesday 9th January, after teachers had to have returned by the day before. Knowing me, I would have been back in Harare in time to go out on the Saturday night somewhere with other VSO volunteers, most likely some local live music venue.

At the start of the school year 1990, few of my colleagues had returned.

As Debbie Chadbon commented in her blog post earlier, there was quite a high turnover of staff in Zimbabwe’s rural schools at the time. In the photo above, I think at least 4 of the teachers pictured had already moved on to other schools. My return was to coincide with two new housemates, plus a new store which opened near to the school. In those days there were very few qualified teachers, usually just the senior staff were the only ones educated beyond ‘O’ level/GCSE.

Taluu store, opened in 1990, pic taken 2018

The struggles faced by the Head at the time – Mr Samakomva – will be very fimiliar to the current incumbent – Mr Chifaka. At the start of the year one very important thing is to get students to bring their school fees…this provides large parts of the school budget for things like desks, seats, text books and equipment for teachers.

The view from outside my home towards the school in 1990

Back in 1990, developments at the school were slow…the unfinished block seen above was not in use until after I left in 1991, once the supplies to complete it arrived. It was Debbie Chadbon who was responsible for getting the World Map painted on the end wall of that block.

The World Map has been maintained over the years, and is a popular sight at the school

With so many challenges being faced by such schools, it is concerning that the current economic difficulties in Zimbabwe will affect the administrations’ ability to have a budget to work with. This years budgetting for both schools was agreed in December, but already it will have been eroded. I am hoping that we can therefore help with at least some of the needs of the two schools at Pakati in 2020.


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.

One thought on “New Year, old memories, plus similar problems

Leave a Reply