Pakati Schools Report – Part 2: Overcoming Challenges

While working in Africa, I often heard the phrase ‘It takes a whole village to raise a child’, but in this case, I would re-write that as ‘It takes the whole community to raise a school’

Welcome to the second part of our Report on the two Pakati schools, Primary and Secondary. For the purposes of this part, when I refer to Pakati I mean both schools together. In terms of ourselves – Friends of Pakati – we see them as one entity, and whatever we do, it is meant to support both schools where practical. As a reminder of part 1. Here is the link to last week’s blog:

https://friendsofpakati.com/2022/06/12/pakati-schools-report-part-1-the-challenges/

Once more I would like to thank those who have contributed to the discussions about the challenges, including some of our principal supporters such as the two Heads (Mr Chifaka & Mr Mahachi), Lorraine Mapuranga (our representative) and Vari Mayez (from our partner organisation, VaTonatsa Foundation) among others. I will try to come up with an overall plan, made up of the short-term & long-term actions, why they are needed, who is best placed to take on board those actions, and what benefit they would be to the students themselves, the staff who work there, and the community at large whose children are educated there.

The catalyst for this report has to be the meeting between Lorraine & Vari, where they discussed the recent visit to the school by Lorraine a former student at Pakati between 1990 & 1993. She had been to spend some time with relatives & family friends in the area, and decided to see the schools on behalf of Friends of Pakati. I arranged for her to be met & welcomed by both Heads, and she was given a full tour of the schools. She saw how things were, what the staff were trying to do to educate the children, and what challenges they all face. So, what next?

How much help do the schools need? Who can best help? Is it all a matter of money? Let me break it down by what I see as the main areas of challenge, and how everything fits in to a bigger picture. Right at the centre of the bigger picture, should be one thing: The Student & the Learning Environment.

 

Allow me to demonstrate what I am talking about:

So, from the above diagram, it gives a clear picture of what can affect the student and his/her ability to learn. It also allows us to look & see who can help with which part(s).

For Pakati schools, like many others in Zimbabwe, the Government recruits & trains the Head and the Teachers, and sets the Curriculum, including guidance on how to deliver it. Much of the remainder – the internal & external environment of the school & its facilities – will come from elsewhere, usually the local community itself via school fees, and practical help where appropriate.

Organisations like Friends of Pakati & VaTonatsa Foundation are charitable organisations with similar interests in the area, and will usually try to support the schools with necessary items rather than money, i.e. IT equipment (F.o.P.) and Revision Booklets (V.F. & F.o.P. together). We are jointly looking to help with library books and sports equipment where we can.

The parents & local community provide essential support through school fees, and things like redecorating the buildings, or delivering the free porridge drinks donated to all Primary students.

For the charitable organisations, we rely on our ability to raise funds in order to be able to deliver the support we can. The more we raise, the more we can help, particularly on the more expensive items such as IT & sports equipment, plus things like repairs/replacement for the power supply. It is a serious question – do we continue to implement our main purpose – delivery of donated IT equipment – or do we use the money raised to restore a good power supply, as without it, the IT doesn’t work, as mentioned in Part 1 of this report.
With more funds, we could also help support the most vulnerable & most disadvantaged children in the community by providing scholarships, uniforms, basic equipment etc., and/or we could spread our support to other local schools in a similar position. Those are certainly the intentions of both organisations as we aim to work ever more closely together, always with the consent of local authorities & the community.

One of the issues Pakati faces is around the school fees. At the beginning of the school year in January, the schools draw up a list of priorities for development & equipment, with a budget which they hope to have in order to achieve their aims. This comes from the estimates of how many students there will be, and how much they will pay. As Zimbabwe faces a relatively high level of inflation at present, then if the fees are not paid quickly, then the value of the fees reduces over time & Pakati will not be able to buy as much as they want or need – thus they end up being short of desks, of books, of essential equipment for practical subject. This can then be exacerbated when larger items need replacing or repairing – power supply, classroom blocks, staff accommodation, etc.

Having spent some time living at Pakati myself, I am very much aware of the community & its situation, which is that it is largely a subsistence farming area, reliant on crops for food & to sell any surplus. It is highly dependent on good weather patterns during the various planting seasons, in order for the parents to be able to pay school fees, buy uniforms, provide school items & whatever else is needed.

Usually, the main harvest of maize & other staple crops is at the end of the rainy season, usually around April/May time….meaning school fees are often delayed, or in a bad year, cannot be afforded at all. So by the time the fees are collected, they are already of lower value than in January. There is a Department of Social Welfare which administers some support to underprivileged children, but sometimes this can also be late getting to the schools too.

So. What can be done? Well, I think an overall plan needs to be put in place, covering the areas which those of us outside Government can do to help Pakati – and maybe other local schools ultimately – which will complement the Government’s efforts and will help to to improve the school for all concerned – the students themselves, the parents who invest in their children’s education, the community itself, which will benefit from a better-educated population as those students grow up & head to the family farms, or local businesses, or further education, or employment in the urban areas, or head abroad for pastures new – the tradition of supporting younger siblings or older relatives will further enhance the community at large. But…

…it requires EVERYONE to play their part. The community will only ever be as strong as its weakest links.

The Head and the teachers need to play their part, and the school and communjty need to make sure those staff have what they need, including accommodation & access to various facilities.

The parents themselves need to value education, and try to support their children’s learning at home as well as at school. Provide them with uniforms, equipment, make sure they attend, and just as important, pay thr fees as quickly as possible.

The community itself can do a lot for the achools, operating the Development Committees, Old Students Association, providing practical.help when & where they can.

Charitable Organisations can try to help with things like IT, sports equipment, look for funds to help with larger items – such as repair of power supplies, and wi-fi/internet – and search for donations, for things like desks, chairs library books.

The students themelves have their own part to play…maintaining the grounds, cleaning, clearing awau rubbish – but also NOT doing things to damage the learning environment – no grafiti, no littering, no pulling off the cememt on walls, not breaking windows & doors – taking pride in themselves and their school.

It is my suggestion that we convene some kind of meeting to discuss things one of the days during my visit in September with interested parties. Let us see how we can all come together, talk about what it will take to improve things at Pakati for the students, staff & community at large.

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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