From Rural Girl to Urban Woman

Below is a remarkable story, sent to me by one of my own former students, Lorraine Mapuranga, who I remember and know well. She may already be familiar to readers as she has contributed to this blog previously several times. I will add my own thoughts from my own memories of her further down. Please read on…

Lorraine seen on the right outside her home, with Evelyn Veremu, neice of the then Head of Pakkati Secondary school, Owen Veremu

“Good day Mr Walker. Hope you are fine and staying safe there. Let me share my story from childhood. I am proud to be one of the typical village girls, it best describes myself. No-one can ever tell me what life in a village looks like because I was born in Chidawaya village, I grew up there, went to school in the area, and only left the village life when I was 21…Since then I have lived and worked in cities like Harare and Johannesburg.

At Johannesburg Airport, December 2019

Growing up in a family where we were only girls was quite challenging for me. All the duties which in other families are done by boys, but for us we had no choice. The worst of the duties that I hated most then was herding cattle when it’s raining. Growing up as a girl, I learnt a lot of things at a very tender age. Tilling the land, cleaning the home, washing laundry and dishes (all by hand) were just some of the duties which we had to learn.

Primrose (cousin), Prevy (sister), Lorraine and Ashley (cousin). Primrose and Ashley are sisters. See photo futher down for more recent pictures of these four.

When I started going to school it was quite far, as I did my Primary at Chanetsa. Imagine a 7 year old walking for more than 8km to and from school..but that was then. I only got to know why it was good then to learn life the good way and the hard way because you never know what package life has to offer. I moved to high school at Chidiya Secondary for Form 1, then went to Pakati Secondary school for Form 2 to Form 4. I’m happy that I had a taste of different schools and different experiences of life.

Re-visiting Pakati in January 2020, meeting Mr Chizenya, teacher on duty.

I remember coming to Pakati in 1990 and how I was scared of the Headmaster then Mr Samakomva, after being told by fellow students that he was a no nonsense taker. Also for me the first days were so difficult because me and corporal punishment were enemies… I was scared of being beaten, though this kind of punishment was seen as somehow reformative. If I was late for school I would really think of a plan such that I would never be seen by ‘Dread’ (Mr Samakomva as we used to call him cos of his dread locks). I got to know what he did not like, and luckily I was never called to his office for discipline.

Lorraine with her school friend Chido Zungunde

I also met my new teachers, some among them I’m still in touch with, such as Mr Nyamauya, Mr Walker and Miss Chadbon. It was not difficult for me as a new student then since I joined my mates from Grade 7 at Chanetsa Primary. I had parted ways with them at Form1, but also met them again, and others from the local community.

I would like to believe things change with time. We used to make our lunches from home and at school we did not do it a one man game at lunch We could gather like 3 or 4 pupils then share whatever we had mostly fruits in season like mangoes, guavas, peaches, mazhanje (a common wild fruit) and some cooked grains from the fields. I want to believe this has been happening even after I left the school. However I believe it’s likely to change now when schools finally re-open due to the new lifestyle that comes with covid19. No more sharing of anything…

Pakati Secondary school students in uniform, 2019

During my time at school, wearing of school uniforms was not a prerequisite as you can see in some of the pictures..not that it was not mandatory but I think it is because teachers understood the difficult times we were living in… But I think it would have been better if the rule to all wear uniforms was strict, because the way we dressed then exposed our poverty to others and contributed to loss of confidence. I really liked the way I see the current students in their blue uniforms and black shoes. Well done to the parents for cooperating with teachers on being strict on this.

At school we had time for study after lunch hour and as well I used to study at home on weekends. I remember finding my private place to study when I’m home. I used to go at a nearby hill around our field where it was quiet and away from home to avoid noise. It was cool and refreshing there. I’m also glad that the school now has electricity and computers. If Wi-Fi becomes available to the school then all the better, since this will help students to study online – especially now during the trying times of covid 19.

The best times I have enjoyed life were at school..When you are at school no matter what the circumstances those are the best days!!! I got to learn a lot and seeing myself grow from childhood into adulthood. I liked athletics and volley ball at school. Mixing with other students and teachers was great too. I would like to see some improvements on availability of furniture and stationery at the school. I know how difficult it was then to share 4 textbooks in a class of 40. More stationery means better ways of studying and passing exams which is the core aim of any school That will make life better for the learner.

Study booklets for exam students provided by Friends of Pakati and VaTonatsa Foundation recently

Thanks to the teamwork between VaTonatsa Foundation and Friends of Pakati, for a resourceful crisis management plan to provide exam study packs for the schools. Applause👏🏽 to all the parties involved. Well done too to the community leaders for being part of the school projects. Just wishing all the students to work hard and appreciate the extra mile that these philanthropic organisations have done.”

Primrose (cousin), Prevy (sister), Lorraine and Ashley (cousin). Primrose and Ashley are sisters.

I asked Miss Chadbon for her comnents, about how she remembered Lorraine from her time teaching at Pakati Secondary school. Here is what she had to say in reply:

“Hi Chris. I’m well thanks – how about you? Here are a few comments about her: ‘Lorraine was a lively, very friendly student who was enthusiastic and hard working. She made the most of opportunities and I remember thinking she would do well, which has proved to be the case. Lorraine helped me to understand the life of local Zimbabweans and I remember having some very interesting chats with her after school. It has been great to be back in touch with her after all these years and rekindle our friendship’.”

Evelyn Veremu, Lorraine and Debbie Chadbon

For myself, I remember a bright and inquisitive student who was always quick to laugh. Also very eager to learn about many things be they academic or not. It has been a real pleasure for me to be re-connected with her after so long, to see her and meet her family and friends last year. She is transformed from the rural schoolgirl I first met in 1990, into a working mother living in Johannesburg, South Africa, still deeply proud of, and rooted in, her rural background.

Lorraine on the left, with her children and her friends including the author

Well…This story has really taken me back to my time at Pakati 30 years ago! I have been remeniscing in 2 phone calls just yesterday, first with Debbie Chadbon, then later with Lorraine herself. It is clear we all have an enduring friendship from a shared experience, and all three of us have some amazing memories from the time when our lives overlapped at Pakati.

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.

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