A retrospective, personal look at Friends of Pakati

Here is something I have wrote a while back, very much a personal explanation of Friends of Pakati. Much of it can be found on other pages on this site, but its worth putting it out together as one post.

There are times when I am transported back to my time at Pakati Secondary school. It could be the taste of some African food, the sound of a familiar Zimbabwean song, hearing someone speaking in Shona, or watching TV documentaries about people and wildlife in Africa. Many things really. They remind me of what it was like to live in rural Zimbabwe. I think back to all those I knew – staff, students, parents, friends from the community – and wonder how they are, what they are doing, are they still around?

It brings back memories of everyday things – mostly very different to what I was used to here in the UK. I feel it is good for me to have experienced such a life for those 30 months. It has opened my eyes and my mind, such that I consider myself to be quite adaptable, and very much a better person because of it. I frequently say it is the best thing I have ever done.

I set up Friends of Pakati towards the end of 2018 after revisiting the school. I saw developments, but also some things which might have improved over the years have remained the same. Always at the forefront of any school, wherever it is in the world, are the students as they pass through.

I can remember going into classes at Pakati early in 1989 struggling to understand much of how the students (and staff too) would speak, and I am sure it was the same in reverse. Like many things, it took a bit of getting used to. Accent, food, climate, living conditions, getting around, school organisation, the way things got done. What saw me through was the extraordinary feeling of welcome I got from everyone, with patience and forgiveness (I am certain I did & said things which made people wonder about what I was doing there).

Gradually we got used to each other. I settled in, I built friendships, some of which are with me to this day. As I began to enjoy life at Pakati, I spent more weekends in the area rather than going to Harare every Friday. I went to the shops at Chigwada 40 minutes walk away. I went to Musami, usually by bus, sometimes on foot or a lift. I got invited to peoples homes to visit, eat, drink, chat, see around the homesteads. All of these made me more at home, more accepted in the community. I have to add generally speaking, teachers are well respected, and there is a great desire for education.

Which brings me to what I want to say – what Friends of Pakati is about for me personally. I think back to students I taught who were very bright among their peers. Some got good results at O level, but I wonder…how well could they have really done if Pakati’s facilities matched those of bigger, better funded schools, some even not so far from them? I believe students who acheived well at Pakati (and any other similar school) would have matched the best at those other institutions. This blog has  since it began, shown that real grinding poverty does not have to prevent a bright student from succeeding academically. Where help and support can be provided, the education of ALL students can be improved regardless of background. If bright students can improve, so can the rest. If a student is less academic but good at practical subjects, or sports, then improve their facilities too. Raise the whole school, raise every student. This will raise the community itself.

The vision that has been set out, comes from consulting current staff of both Pakati schools, but also other interested parties such as former students, local community leaders, and at least one former teacher.

Justification for what Friends of Pakati is doing came from someone close, Bothwell Riside. See his article copied and published here – click on this link:

https://friendsofpakati.com/2020/08/22/guest-article-in-zimbabwe-newsday-by-bothwell-riside-a-friend-of-pakati-21-08-2020/

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The overall aim is to help to improve the education for the students at the two Pakati schools – Primary and Secondary.

Further below, under a heading ‘2020 Vision’, are the priorities, but they cannot all be met without a significant increase in funding. The result means asking what CAN we do with the funds we have/will have. We see that getting the donations of IT (& any other items) out to the schools will be the main target for the coming months. Internet provision we can only hope for at this stage, whereas helping poorest students retain access to education, and the improvements to the learning environment we think are necessary, are acheivable without a huge cost. We can use local tradespeople to help us.

PAKATI SECONDARY SCHOOL

As it was the Secondary school I taught at, here is a little more about the school, and from it you can see just how much help is needed. The Primary school finds itself in a similar position. 

 

Pakati Secondary school in 1992

Post-independence in Zimbabwe saw an expansion of the Education sector, and in particular, a rapid growth of Secondary schools across the country. Pakati was part of this expansion, and like so many other schools in rural areas, provided education to GCSE O level for the first time to those local communities.

Mr Chifaka with the Author, 2019

Thanks go to Mr Mugove Chifaka (current Head of Pakati Secondary school), Bothwell Riside, Debbie Chadbon and Lorraine Mapuranga (all regular Friends of Pakati contributors), plus Mr Mutyavaviri, Nickson Dzimauta, Patience Chinhoyi, Portia Nemaruru and others, for the additional information and photos.

Pakati Secindary school in 1990

Pakati Secondary school began life in 1984. At first, it was actually housed in the Primary school buildings, while construction began in 1985 of the first 3 classroom blocks, plus two teachers houses.

Teachers houses, 1991

Murewa RDC (Rural District Council) brought in men who camped by the school and started erecting concrete poles. They made three shed-like buildings which were later filled by cement made blocks of bricks. The roof trusses were made of steel, and the roofs were put up way before the walls were built. They were built very quickly, and during 1985 Pakati had the first secondary school up and running.

Red: 3 original classroom blocks – Green: 2 original teachers houses – Blue: original borehole – Black: 4th classroom block – Purple: 4th teachers house – Yellow: House were both Debbie and the Author stayed

One development I can confirm myself is the completion of a new borehole in early 1991, funded by the British High Commission through their Small Scale Development fund.

Primary school on the left, Secondary on the right. Old borehole marked in blue, new borehole in 1991 marked in red

A fourth block was begun in 1988, but due to a number of issues, was not completed until 1992. VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas), who brought Debbie Chadbon and the Author to Pakati as teachers, helped by donating funds towards new windows and painting/decorating the building.

The picture at the top of this page was taken after it was officially opened for use, and is the block where Debbie got some of her students to help put the World map on one external wall.

Debbie in 1992

Bothwell tells me he remembers it well: “I used to go and watch this being painted. What’s so vivid in my memory is that we used to be amazed at how a person could paint using her left hand.” The map was repainted in 2017. I am told that the whole school was redecorated in 2018.

4th block in 2019

The Heads of Pakati Secondary school I can be sure of have been as follows (unsure of who was Head first) :

Mr Samakomva can be seen in the suit & tie. Picture taken in 1990

Mr Samakomva 1988 – 1990.
Mr Walker – 1991.
Mr Veremu 1991 – 1995.
Mr Senzere 1995 – n/k

Owen Veremu seen on the right, 1992

Mr Mushaninga – 2007.
Mr Chifaka – 2007 to 2010.
Mr Chingoriwo 2010 to 2017.
Mr Chifaka – 2017 to the present day

According to Debbie, “The 4th teachers house was built in 1993, it was completed around the time I left.” Since then, four more teachers houses have been completed.

In 2009, the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) installed the Solar power supply at Pakati Secindary school, as shown to me by Mr Chifaka on my most recent visit.

He further tells me that “ZESA electricity was installed in 2015, but there was no transformer till 2018.” Installation is confirmed as 2015 by local resident Nickson Dzimauta who worked on the project at the time.

Administration block

In more recent years, there have been several new other buildings added – an Administration Block. Fashion and Fabrics Block as well as a Science & Technology Block.

Fashion & Fabrics Block

Inside F & F Block in 2019

An external area was also set aside for Building/Construction practical lessons.

In 2018

Most recently, a new Tuck Shop has been built. The school buildings have also all been redecorated in recent years.

Tuck shop

A fence was put around the school, as can be seen in the picture below, and I am told by former teacher there Mr Mutyavaviri that it was erected in 2016.

View of the school from the teachers houses, 2018

The classrooms and facilities inside for students appear to have changed little over the years. This is part of the reason for Friends of Pakati to exist.

in 1992

In 2019

So please, if you can, help us to improve the educational experience of the students at these two schools, and by extension, improve the lives of the surrounding community. See our links at the foit of this article.

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2020 Vision

The Author being greeted by Mr Mugove Chifaka, Head of Pakati Secondary school, September 2019

Following the success of ‘My Project for 2019’ and all that went with it, 2020 Vision lays out the aims for this year, and how we hope to achieve them.

As already mentioned in earlier blog posts, discussions have been carried out with interested contributors, and a list of priorities has been put together to reflect those discussions. They are as follows below:

  1. Internet: The first few computers delivered in September will come into their own once the internet is available. It offers students and teachers access to so much more information, advice, and educational material.
  2. Printers and paper: With a lack of available text books, then once internet is set up then a printer for each school will be useful, so they can print out copies of relevant material, e.g. things like past exam papers.
  3. Security: Both schools will need additional, improved security for the rooms in which the computers will be used. Better burglar bars on the windows and additional door security is needed.
  4. More computers: In order to offer formal IT lessons, each school needs at least 10 computers. Currently they both have 5, so extra ones are needed. This will raise another question though – electricity supply. At present the supply is irregular, and both rely on solar power during the day.
  5. Text books: It is sad to see that even now 30 years on from my time as a teacher at Pakati Secondary school, there are too few text books for the number of students.
  6. Desks/seating: As with books, not enough desks and/or seats for the students. On top of that, there is now a requirement for seats with back support for the students.

I would like to add something else into the mix too….the overall classroom environment inside could use a spruce up, as could the admin block at the Secondary. Ceilings, a lick of paint, doors and windows? I believe the Primary would also benefit from similar improvements. The schools budgets are stretched, so I appreciate that these things would not be their highest priorities. However, depending on how much can be raised, friendsofpakati.com will try to cover as many of these stated priorities as possible during 2020.

Further details on fundraising events and ideas are now on the blog. All our links are shown below. 

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Website: https://www.friendsofpakati.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/friendsofpakati

Facebook: https://facebook.com/Friends-of-pakati

Instagram: http://Instagram.com/friendsofpakati

Youtube: http://Youtube.com/friendsofpakati

Email: friendsofpakati@gmail.com

Fundraising: http://Paypal.me/friendsofpakati  http://gofundme.com/friends-of-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 have been a Civil Servant in Bradford since 2005. I married a Zimbabwean woman & we have 2 sons.

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