Pakati Memories…part 3 – Acting Head and beyond

So going from the end of this recent post… http://friendsofpakati.com/2020/07/07/pakati-memories-part-2-sports-entertainment-and-so-much-more/ …..after the ‘promotion’ to Acting Head, the first thing I had to do was notify the staff. I have to be honest here, not everyone was happy about it. There was a scene of sorts at an assembly one day, where one staff member seemed somewhat upset…I will not name him…but for my part, I had simply made sure he got the transfer he had requested, and he left soon after.

One of the newest staff at the school (in those days the turnover was quite high) was a young man named Owen Veremu. He was a new University of Zimbabwe (UZ) graduate, which at the time, made him the next highest qualified teacher after myself. The turnover of staff had left me with little alternative than to make him my deputy, with the idea of training him up to take over as I was due to leave for home in September that year. I was particularly honoured that his family invited me as their guest at his Graduation in Harare.

It was a very interesting time for me, learning the ropes and passing it all straight on to Mr Veremu so he could step straight into the role when I left. I got good advice from Mr Rugoyi, then Head at Pakati Primary, plus from the staffing office in Murewa, as well as the Ministry Of Education at the provincial Headquarters in Marondera.

We arranged an inspection so that we knew what needed doing, and using the school fees generated, bought things such as new desks, books, Science gear and football kits. While in the UK over Christmas and New Year, I had bought some felt-tip coloured markers, and ended up using them when creating the timetable, colour-coding each teacher!

Chasing school fees became an issue…the Secondary schools have to charge fees to help fund the necessities like books, desks, equipment, also building materials and schools sports gear. My predecessor had chased students away from school if they had not paid, and I followed suit. It wasn’t always successful, as some would wait until the Head had gone round class to class, then sneak in/back in! I understand it didn’t make me popular with everyone either… I don’t know if that still happens today.

I had my first parents meeting/AGM during that first term. I was very nervous as I went through the accounts in some detail, with Mr Veremu doing the tranlsations. I should not have wrorried, as the parents said they had not seen any of this before! The 9.30am meeting kind of started around 1pm, as we waited for many to turn up after tending their fields. The community is predominently one of subsistence farming, and this was a busy time of year for them. They backed everything we asked them to, and I was glad of the obvious support we were getting.

My time as a staff member came to an end at the end of August officially, during the school holidays. Myself and Maxine Ison celebrated our time at Pakati ending firstly with a presentation from the students, and I dont mind admitting it brought tears to my eyes. Even now, looking back, I do feel a bit emotional as I remember how I could hardly speak at that time – it was a real wrench to leave the school. We then had a wonderful party at Taluu stores, plenty of food and dink and chatting and laughter and some sadness, but an extraordinary adventure for me was almost at an end.

As Acting Head, I decided to stay around and ran some extra lessons for exam classes. Teachers took turns in being around for one week out of the four, but I was waiting for my parents to come from the UK for their second trip. (I also had to see the Ministry officials in Harare as I was owed an extra allowance for being Acting Head. They paid it just before my parents arrived, so I could enjoy my holiday.)

During this time at school, I first met Vee, who became Mrs Walker & moved to the UK. She had relatives in the area including younger cousins who were pupils at Pakati. We married locally in Marondera in 1992, then formally in the UK in 1993. There is a little more further down this post about our children too.

Shortly before I left Pakati, new VSO volnteers had already arrived in Zimbabwe. The Field Director decided it would be a good idea that, as part of their induction, they should visit a volunteer placement not too far ftom Harare, and he chose Pakati. Part of the reason for that was that two of the new volunteers were to be placed there. They were Jayne Beattie, and Debbie Chadbon. We visited a nearby homestead (Mr Madziva & family kindly hosted us) for a meal. After travelling in Zimbabwe with my parents – more on this below – I paid one last visit to the school, to see how Jayne & Debbie were getting on, before flying home the the UK, where I had enrolled on a Masters degree to start in October.

One interesting aside – volunteers usually had an employer reference written for VSO by their line manager. Usually this would be done by…the Head. So, as I was the Head, effectively I wrote my own reference…..(under VSO guidance of course)!

So far we have searched for and failed to find either Jayne Beattie or Maxine Ison to ask them about their experiences at Pakati. The same is not true of Debbie Chadbon, found by our friend Bothwell Riside, and so we are delighted to say she has become increasingly involved with Friends of Pakati. Debbie did send me an email soon after which turned into this post http://friendsofpakati.com/2019/11/16/saturday-star-a-blast-from-the-past/ in November last year. Now she is promising more about her own personal experience to post on here along with more pictures. Can’t wait!๐Ÿ‘

My parents paid a second visit to Zimbabwe in September 1991, and we travelled around the country again, during a time when it was a very popular tourist destination. We visited Victoria Falls, Hwange National Park and the Eastern Highlands, around Nyanga. In 1990 we also managed Mutare, Bulawayo and Great Zimbabwe as well as taking them to Pakati to see where I lived and worked. Below are just a few pictures from my numerous travels around the country.

What next? Well as I mentioned above, I went back to University, this time in Leeds, to study for an MA in Development Studies. After Vee came to join me in 1993, I was working to earn a living for us both. An opportunity then came up in 1995 to teach again. In Africa. I was interviewed by a 3-person panel, one of who turned out to have been a VSO volunteer in Zimbabwe! The job was in Francistown, Botswana, allowing us to travel to Zimbabwe to see Vee’s family fairly often. I worked again as a Maths teacher from May 1995 to December 1997, at Mater Spei College in Francistown, not far from the border with Zimbabwe. The first pic below is taken in Francistown, where our first child Masimba (who was born in Zimbabwe in 1996) was about 5 months old. I am definitely blessed to be the proud father of our two sons, Masimba is now aged 24, and Daniel is 18. Both are heavily involved in technology, one is working in IT, the other going to University soon to study Audio Engineering. Both share a love of music.

Since returning from Botswana in December 1997, I have taught in the UK for a total of 2 years, worked for VSO doing recruitment campaigns and events for over 4 years, and for the last 15 years I have been a Civil Servant in Bradford. Since September 2018 I have been so happy to have become involved again with Pakati schools and the local community, and will continue this association as long as I am able.

I have revisited Zimbabwe in 2018 and 2019, and spent time at the schools. Above are just a few of my pictures ftom them both. Delivering the computers last year was a genuinely wonderful experience, days I will never forget as long as I live.

One final sunset picture, taken very close to Pakati Secondary school, September 2019.

Author:

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 spent the last 14 years as a Civil Servant in Bradford. I married a Zimbabwean woman & we have 2 sons.

6 thoughts on “Pakati Memories…part 3 – Acting Head and beyond

  1. Very interesting and inspiring story! I enjoyed reading it. Please continue with your efforts to uplift and make a positive change to the lives of the school children, and ultimately, community of the area. The impact will be felt for many many years to come.

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