Here I am at the (then new to me) signboard for Pakati schools, in September 2018, just before my first visit to the school since 1992. It re-ignited my interest in the school and community, giving me the chance to at least partially repay them for an unforgetable 32 months from January 1989 to September 1991. Below are more of my experiences, feelings, thoughts and descriptions of my time at Pakati. I have posted some of these in earlier pieces here on the blog, but I feel they deserve to be part of a larger story. Firstly, here is how the school got its name…
When the original Primary school, which was built largely by the local community, was under construction, there was a dispute between two families who lived nearby – the Chihumbiri’s and the Chinhoyi’s (the Primary school was actually known as Chinhoyi school initially). They both wanted the school to be named after them. They were both involved in the building, both had children attending from day one. As neither would give way, the families eventually came to a typical Zimbabwean compromise, and decided to call it Pakati, which in the Shona language means ‘in between’.
First term at school – January to April – usually means sports, in the form of athletics. Running, jumping, throwing. Pakati has often produced some very good athletes, and it is a tradition which seems to continue. For me, the memory is of one particular girl, Juliana Chiroodza, who excelled in sprinting, and proved very good at high jump too. Below are pictures of Juliana in action, and of the most recent successes, Paidamoyo Lynn Mutemeri, Winnie Masiya and Beauty Mugule.
Class sizes seem to have changed little over the years, in my first year, 1989, Form 1 had 2 classes of around 50 students in each, similar in form 2. Form 3 had one class of arould 70, and Form 4 was around 40 students. I taught Maths to forms 2, 3 and 4. I seem to recall teaching Commerce too, but I am a bit vague on that😁.
There was entertainment around at Pakati, in various forms. One time we had a drama group come and give a short play about the dangers of AIDS, and a local lad strung a wire up between two trees, then did what is best described as a low-wire act…I also remember one evening/night someone came with a film projector and some short films, mostly in English, and included a fair few music clips, which were then projected onto a wall of the Primary school. We sat were we could, on the floor or a small raised area which I think as an anthill of some sort.
For myself, entertainment at Pakati was a mixtute of things. I had a radio/cassette player and a number of cassette tapes with music I loved, I listened a lot to them, local ZBC radio, and the BBC World Service on a Saturday afternoon. This allowed me to catch up with football scores from the UK, especially to find out about my favourite club, the mighty Iron – Scunthorpe United FC. My elder brother paid for me to receive The Guardian Weekly – a version of the UK national daily newspaper. I wrote and recevied many letters from home, mostly my Mum (on behalf of Dad), occasionally my brothers, some friends from college and a girlfriend at the time. I also read a LOT of books. I borrowed them from volunteers, from the British Council Library, and used book exchange shops and book retailers in Harare.
Weekends at Pakati often involved going to Chigwada in my first year with it being the nearest shops, and one of my favourite memories of walking there has been reported on this blog before, but is well worth repeating – the best question I have ever been asked:
To get to Chigwada was a 40 minute walk. 30 minutes to get to the dirt road, then walk along it, round a curve in the road, before walking towards the store past the grinding mill. At the apex to the curve there was a homestead and one day as I walked past, I was asked the best question anyone has ever asked me. I heard a voice of a small child, a young girl of maybe 5 or 6 years old, and as she ran from her home to the gate to greet me, she said at the top of her voice:
‘Why are you?’
To this day I am unable to answer. But I did respond after a short stunned silence:
‘I am fine and how are you?’
She ran off clearly delighted, laughing all the way back to her home.
Here are some pics around Chigwada area…
After about a year, a new store opened much closer to the school, called Taluu/Taloo. It was owned by a lady from Harare, run by her mother. We were now able to buy basic items much closer to home. When Maxine Ison and myself ended our time at Pakati, the store threw a big party for us, with many from the community and both schools in attendance.
Away from Pakati, I will talk about travel and tourism in a later post, but any weekend I was in Harare, or occasionally Mutare, myself and fellow VSO volunteers would look for fims to watch at the cinema, restaurants to eat at, or live music to watch. These are the bands I remember seeing during the 32 months I spent in Zimbabwe – The Real Sounds of Africa, the Four Brothers, Oliver Mutukudzi, Jonah Moyo, Robson Banda, Stella Chiweshe, Biggie Tembo, Musi & Ilanga, The Runn Family – at a number of different venues. We did sometimes go to other volunteers places too, and some came to visit at Pakati.
One thing I do remember early on, I had been there a few weeks so thought I was getting used to it all. It got cloudy & very dark as the rain was about to fall – something it did with spectacular results of heavy rain and forked lightning across the sky. I quickly walked to the classroom I was due to teach in, and the instinct of reaching for a light switch took over without thinking….the students looked at me as if to say ‘what is he doing’? No electricity means no light switch….
During my second year, 1990, I became involved in a small scale development project at the school, following visits to other volunteers and what they had done. I spoke to our Head, Mr Samakomva, and we came up with an idea for an agriculture plot with fencing, a borehole and a water tank. I arranged funding via the British High Commission, who had a small-scale development fund we coould apply for. We did have a celebration event at the school, with the High Commissioner in attendance along with local dignatories.
Over time, the fencing and tank have gone, but the now community borehole remains, being well maintained by the Murewa Rural District Council’s District Development Fund. It is a legacy I am delighted to have left for people to use.
There was, around the area, lots of animal life and not all of it was as harmless as a gecko on the wall! There were ants and beetles, geckos and cockroaches, large spiders which seemed to be seasonal, snakes, scorpions, bats, chameleons, and a wide variety of birdlife.
In 1990, the staff was joined by a new VSO volunteer, Maxine Ison from Sheffield, who came to teach English. She was at Pakati from September 1990 to August 1991, leaving at the same time as I did.
From another earlier blog called ‘The Day I was Surprised’, here is what happened to me from the end of 1990…
Life at Pakati had settled down to a gentle pace by 1990, and after 2 years I decided to take a trip home. Flights were paid for by VSO, along with an extra allowance for extending my contract to the end of August 1991. The intention was to study for a Masters to start in October that year.
I went home to spend time with family at Christmas in Scunthorpe, followed by New Year with friends in Bradford. At times the contrast between my life in England and my life in Zimbabwe was remarkable, but at the beginning of January 1991 I returned to Pakati.
On my return to the school, I learned that Mr Samakomva, the Headmaster, had fallen ill and was unlikely to return. After going go the Primary school to consult with Mr Rugoyi (their Head), about the situation and to get the key for the schools post box in nearby (2 bus rides away..) Murehwa. He suggested I visit the Ministry of Education staffing offices there.
I talked at length to Mr J J Matanhire, the Staffing Officer, about the school, and he promised me he would sort things out for us. I set off back, and made my way to Musami, a small township a few kilometres from Pakati. I went to a local store which had a cafe, ordered some sadza ne nyama (local food – maize, beef, relish and green vegetables) and waited for the bus back to Pakati due around an hour later.
While I was waiting, talking to a friend in Musami, a woman came up to me and said to me ‘Are you Mr Walker? I said yes, I am. She then handed me a letter, introducing her as a new teacher at the school, but it was addressed to:
Mr C. Walker
Pakati Secondary School
Carrying the signature of Mr Matanhire, the staffing officer I had spoken to less than 2 hours before!
From Newly Qualified Teacher to Head teacher in 2 years was quite a surprise to me to say the least!
Good to end on another gratuitous sunset. More to come….my time as Acting Head, more pictures of former staff, students and people I knew, family stuff. Also, as Zimbabwe was a great tourist destination (and can be again) I will illustrate stories about my adventures away from Pakati school where I can.