From Pakati to London! **Weekend Star** Epiphania Chiroodza

Wow. It is just amazing how things are a bit quiet for a while, then Bang! One thing leads to another….First, I hear from a man called John Tsinya, living here in the UK. I taught two of his siblings, and I hope to tell both of their stories soon. Next, I find he has passed a photo from our Instagram page (@friendsofpakati) of one of my former students, on to her sister who also lives in the UK – and I taught her too! This then, is the first of at least four new profiles being published.

It is therefore literally just in these last few days that I have been re-united with Epiphania Chiroodza online, only to discover she has been living, studying and working here in the UK for the last 19 years! So this is the story of how she came from Pakati to London…

Epiphania in a recent photo near where she now lives, on the outskirts of London, UK

I am absolutely delighted to introduce Epiphania, someone I remember from my first days at Pakati Secondary school, not least because she was in my first Form 4 (O level/GCSE) Maths class in 1989. I remember her as a bright, inquisitive girl, and someone who was easy to speak with. She was not as shy to talk in class as some were, having a good measure of self confidence about her…this is what she has told me recently…

“I did my primary school grade 1-6 in Harare, at Rukudzo Primary school in Kambuzuma, where I lived with my family. My father took early retirement, and I then spent five years living in Chiremba village with my parents and siblings. My parents were then peasant farmers.

As a result, I attended Pakati Primary school in 1985 where I completed my grade 7, then I attended Form 1 to Form 4 at Pakati Secondary school until the end of 1989. That was the year Mr Walker had joined the staff at Pakati Sec.

The school was totally different, as I was coming from the city to a rural area. It was also an environment shock! The distance I used to walk going to school to Pakati it was ten times more than in the city. I had to learn to adjust and adapt to the new environment I was living in. I did enjoy growing up there though, and had lots of cousins and relatives around. I have learnt the hard ways of life, and this has built resilience in me. Any challenges and situations right now I can confront them with no fear.

Staying in the countryside has made me a stronger person, and I learned to appreciate what I have. I left for the city after my O-level, and worked for a couple of years. I also had a family, with 2 children. I then left Zimbabwe in September 2002 when I had an opportunity that came my way to come to England.

I grabbed that opportunity straightaway.

Epiphania by the River Thames

In England life was not that easy, with culture shock it meant once again learning to adjust. Weather wise – British weather was another issue – when it’s cold it’s very cold, snowing and raining. Everything in England is very fast, and you have to learn to adapt quickly. There were times I felt home sick and missing my mum’s cooking and my siblings…and the Zimbabwean weather!

Fortunately, I found work in the health and social care sector, and I later went to college. I gained a Diploma in Health and Social Care, which then led me to further my education. I went to London South Bank University and studied BSC (Hons) in Mental Health Nursing. I am currently working as a Registered Mental Health Nurse in a psychiatric hospital (NHS) in London.

Therefore, I say never stop dreaming because one day your dream will come true, and always follow your dreams. The sky is the limit. I never knew, when I was at Pakati, that I will end up here in the UK, but fate took me here, and I have achieved a lot in my life which for which I am very grateful”.

Epiphania on a recent visit to Edinburgh

It has been a real pleasure for me, chatting to Epi for the first time in over 30 years! It has taken us back down memory lane, and there is much more to come I am sure…one of those things to come is the profile of her younger sister, Juliana, who I also taught. It was her photo on Instagram that was the catalyst for me being in touch with so many others from Pakati… this picture below, of Juliana competing in high jump, which had been taken by, and sent to me, by Debbie Chadbon.

Juliana Chiroodza, competing at St Pauls Mission Sports Stadium, Musami, in 1992

My thanks go to John Tsinya for getting the ball rolling, and to Epiphania for reminding me of good times…

 

 

 

 

 

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 have been a Civil Servant in Bradford since 2005. I married a Zimbabwean woman & we have 2 sons.

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