Helping the wonderful students of Pakati schools in Zimbabwe
Author: Friends Of Pakati
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.
Inside the ECD Block, here is the ECD teacher Ms Mandingaisa, who is delighted with the improvements, as are the pupils themselves.
The pupils are still following Covid protocols, but at least they are back in school, and listening intently to their teacher.
Other News – donation
A keen supporter of Friends of Pakati, Max Bell, has very kindly donated some items to us. Most recently, in order to publicise his book, he has been sponsoring some Scunthorpe United away games. Rochdale v Scunthorpe was a successful day for Max, and he was given a Rochdale shirt signed by all their players. He gave it to me to sell & raise funds for Friends of Pakati.
Fantastic news for us as Friends of Pakati celebrates THREE YEARS since its inception in October 2018! Read below about how it came into existence, who else has come on board over that time, what we have delivered and what we plan to do in the coming months.
Plesse keep checking our archive of the blog, and visiting the other pages on this website to find out so much more about us!
I arrived in Harare mid-September, 2018, for a holiday. Staying with relatives, I decided to revisit the school where I had worked (through VSO) between Jan 1989 and Sept 1991, where I taught Maths, & became Acting Head for two terms – Pakati Secondary school.
About 80 km/50 miles from Harare, the school and its main feeder – Pakati Primary school – lie in a remote rural area directly East of the capital. Its a fairly peaceful place, populated by subsistance farmers and their families, growing various crops for food & for sale in markets.
Pakati Primary school on the left, the Secondary school is on the right.
My first visit to the school since 1992…I was a bit nervous to be honest, unsure of what would happen. Really I shouldn’t have worried, as the welcome I got from the Head, his staff, and the community, was very warm indeed. It felt like I had hardly been away!
I spoke to the Head, Mr Mugove Chifaka, and having seen some of the developments since my time, asked him what he would most like to see. He gave me a one-word answer: COMPUTERS. He had seen the changes heading his way from the Ministry of Education, that even rural schools were to have IT lessons, and would need internet access to fulfil those demands. This is what triggered me to set up Friends of Pakati.
Within 3 months, I had researched into how I might acquire some IT equipment and how to get it out to Zimbabwe. It seemed it would need a fair bit of fundraising, setting up a website and a social media presence, plus publicity….and gradually a plan came together. I decided to launch everything together on Wednesday 16th January 2019, to coincide with the 30 year anniversary of the day I first set foot in a classroom as a teacher at Pakati Secondary school.
I had an idea for a fundraising challenge, linked to my hometown football club – Scunthorpe United – and the club in the city where I currently live – Bradford City. They were due to play each other in a league match at the end of April, so I decided to try a sponsored walk between the two football grounds. It took 3 days from Bradford to Scunthorpe, a total of almost 60 miles/85km, arriving shortly before the game. Many of my friends at Scunthorpe United were very supportive, as were the club itself (see pic below of Rob Noble, the Marketing Manager at Scunthorpe United, handing over donated shirts)
Crucially, the local media were also on board. I had an article in the local newspaper, the Scunthorpe Telegraph, and an interview on BBC Radio Humberside, both on the day I launched the project. The radio broadcast was overheard by Stuart Pine, IT manager at The Stephenson Group from Leeds, & he offered some PC’s to me for the schools. Stu was on board!
Stu Pine on the left, The Author in 2019
Next on board with us were two former Pakati students, one of whom I taught back in 1990 & 91. Lorraine Mapuranga (my former student) and Bothwell Riside began to get involved, and I met both in person in September 2019 when we delivered the donated IT & Sports equipment to both Pakati schools.
The Author with Lorraine & Bothwell at her home in Harare, October 2019
The handing over of the goods was a great experience, meeting many friends old and new. This included Councillor Israel Maliki, MP Jonah Sewera, and Vari Mayez of the VaTonatsa Foundation, who have become key partners for us.
Not long after, Bothwell finally made contact with another former Pakati teacher – Debbie Chadbon from Bristol. She has joined the team of key supporters, and has helped greatly with recent fundraising efforts.
Between us, now we plan to send even more IT goods to Pakati sometime in 2022, partly depending on when the international travel restrictions are sufficiently relaxed. Stu tells me there are another 20 PCs available for us at least, so massive thanks go to the Stephenson Group! https://www.stephensonpersonalcare.com
We hope to raise enough money to not just transport the goods, but also to provide internet access, and more educational materials for both schools. We are therefore always grateful to those who donate, whether it is noney, goods, or practical help in some way. Recently we have had invaluable contributions from The TeamCaro Foundation! http://www.theteamcarofoundation.org.uk
We always need more help, in terms of money, goods, social media support, publicity and other practical support. If you or someone you know can help, please use email@example.com to contact us, and http://Paypal.me/friendsofpakati We keep going, thanks to the support of many individuals too many to mention.
First of all, I am very grateful for the response to the previous blog I posted a few days ago – https://friendsofpakati.com/2021/09/28/founders-concerns-advice-needed/ – the statistics show a good number of views & visits. It also shows those visitors did go and see other pages and other previous blog posts. I hope you will continue to visit the website & spread the word whenever you can across all platforms.
What Friends of Pakati was set up for – students learning about the computers we presented
We have been struggling a bit recently, so I thought it useful to engage with our readers for ideas on changes to improve things. Here is what I asked in that most recent blog:
Is the problem what we do, or how we do it? Are we on the right social media platforms? Are we getting the best out of them? Is the blog itself interesting enough? How can we improve the content? What are we doing t? What are we not doing? Are we presenting our material in the best way? What should we do more of? Or less of? Are there activities we should be doing? Are we not interactive enough? What can we do to sell more merchandise? How best can we raise more donations/attract more donors? How do we become better at those things? Should we use some of the money raised to better promote Friends of Pakati online/social media? If so, how?
This post will be to answer at least some of those questions, with help from those who responded.
First ever IT lesson at Pakati Primary school, September 2019
On Facebook Messenger, I received the following message from John Needham, a friend and fellow supporter of Scunthorpe United – he is the Chairman of a supporters group, Iron Trust. They, through John, have been very supportive of Friends of Pakati. Here is his thought-provoking assessment, particularly in the UK:
Hi Chris. I’ve read your latest blog, but I’m afraid I’ve not got any answers for you. I believe that the pandemic has taken a huge toll on many people, either through loss of jobs, through the ending of furlough (the UK’s job support scheme), or through loss of family/ friends. Many have had to reduce or curtail charitable donations as a consequence. I think it’s also difficult to build small charities, especially as you have pretty much a finite audience. I think that feedback direct from the schools would be good, maybe little videos showing how life has changed as a consequence of the donations. It could be a case of less is more?! Fewer blogs, but directly from Zim. Non of the above is intended as criticism of your efforts, which have been magnificent, but a look at a slightly different approach. Times are tough for all charities at the moment.
So, some interesting thoughts from John, well worth considering as I decide how best to proceed. For me, the comment about maybe more input direct from Zimbabwe is a good one, so I am inviting my friends and contacts to respond, by offering regular content from the schools, the community and those with strong connections wherever they may be. For the schools, it will be great to hear about how the donations are helping improve things, and how more donations would further improve the education standards.
Stuart Pine, IT Manager at the Stephenson Group, and the Author in 2019, as they handed over the PC’s they had generously donated to Friends of Pakati
Stuart (see above), a key supporter for us, has also added his thoughts, and reflect a similar view. Here is some of what he said in a message to me earlier:
Hi Chris, we are all well. I have been thinking about the original blog. I think the biggest fight we have is Covid, although there is a noticeable move to get back to normal, people and businesses are being very risk averse. They are looking inwards and not outwards. I genuinely expect this to change but probably not until next year…… With that said everyone seems to be focusing on the bad news, fuel, Covid, energy costs etc, I could go on. But it’s removed people’s focus of being interested in other things and for people to look at donating. It will get better and I think we all can just keep sharing and liking links, I am no expert on raising up the profile of the website, but if we could get some advice it may help – we just have to keep going and keep posting. Maybe the promised video from me will help 😀 (it will help! – the Author)
So, what are we going to do? Well there are some ideas which we can introduce, the first of which is this: one suggestion was that we start to post just once a week, but at a set day/time – which will be on a Sunday afternoon at 3pm each week for the time being. It will include a main item and any relevant updates.
I am talking to people who are giving advice on social media presence, on the website, on promotion and publicity, and on fundraising, so you can expect to see some further changes in the coming weeks. There may be a change in emphasis in terms of where and we promote ourselves, and greater use of short videos whenever possible.
One other key message I took from the responses is that, even though times are tough right now, we should keep going, keep posting about Pakati schools. As things hopefully get better in the coming months, then when the time comes, we should be in a good position to make the trip to Zimbabwe for a second donation presentation. It is important to play a long game, and not be too worried with the current situation.
Exactly two years ago, I was blown away by the reception given to me by the community surrounding the two Pakati schools, shown in the picture below. It was the climax to what was to be the first of hopefully many visits and donations, thanks to the generosity of those supporting us here at Friends of Pakati.
The Author with local MP Mr Sewera, Dr. Gurajena of Murewa RDC local councillor Mr Mailiki, senior staff and SDC members from both Pakati schools, presenting IT and sports equipment donated in 2019
Current state of play for Friends of Pakati
Greetings to you dear reader, follower, sponsor, donor, supporter, collaborator, partner, and Friend of Pakati. I hope all is well with you, wherever you are in the World. You may have read our most recent blog – https://friendsofpakati.com/2021/09/26/pakati-news-updates/ – or not as the case may be. At the end of it, I wrote this short paragraph:
“Friends of Pakati is in the middle of a difficult period, which I will discuss in the next blog. The future may take us in new directions, into new collaborations. I hope we can move forward from our current struggles and help the two Pakati schools – and maybe other nearby schools too – with things like computers, books, materials, sports equipment, internet and many more things. But in order to succeed, we will need some help…find out what and how in the next blog👍”
So, here is what is really going on with Friends of Pakati, from my perpective, as founder and author of the blog. Below are the statistics indicating a gradual decline in interest in our website in terms of visitors/views, wich also reflect the steady decline in both money donations and merchandise sales in recent months.
The third graph – our monthly stats – is the key one for me, showing a slow drop over time in our views/visitor numbers. The fourth graph indicates we will not even match the level of interest that we had in our first year, and all figures show a steady decline.
The income has also been dropping, both in terms of donations and sales of our merchandise, making it hard to meet our need for funds to cover the cost of shipping the goods we obtain, let alone expand into the other areas we expressed a desire to in our Vision – see https://friendsofpakati.com/2020-vision-friends-of-pakati-the-project-continues/ – begging the question ‘so how DO we reach our goals?’
This, my friends, is where you come in. Please. Bring ideas, solutions, advice, constructive criticisms. Please visit the site in depth, and read the blog, visit other pages, see what you think. I value your thoughts & opinions very highly, regardless of your location or participation with us.
Is the problem what we do, or how we do it? Are we on the right social media platforms? Are we getting the best out of them? Is the blog itself interesting enough? How can we improve the content? What are we doing right? What are we not doing? Are we presenting our material in the best way? What should we do more of? Or less of? Are there activities we should be doing? Are we not interactive enough? What can we do to sell more merchandise? How best can we raise more donations/attract more donors? How do we become better at those things? Should we use some of the money raised to better promote Friends of Pakati online/social media? If so, how?
Are you, or is someone you know, able to give support & advice on any of these questions? Please do let us know via the usual channels:
It is very important to get feedback from you, to help us develop Friends of Pakati into what it hopes to be – a humanitarian, education-promoting charitable organisation aimed at the community around the two Pakati schools, and maybe beyond if we can.
The Author at a recent event to raise the profile of Friends of Pakati
I, the Author/founder Chris Walker, look forward to your responses, and thank you for taking the time to read, respond & share widely across your platforms. I will of course publish further posts on this, including any changes that might come from the discussions. Thanks!
Today Friends of Pakati are providing updates including recent developments at the schools, our own merchandise/fundraising progress, and a hint of our future.
One of the teachers who recently left Pakati Secondary was Mrs Pindura, teacher of English and Deputy Head. She has now been replaced, according to my source, by a Mr Mundozi.
Mr Mundozi has a visual impairment, so he is joined by his assistant, Ms Karomborombo, both seen in the above photo courtesy of Mrs Munatswa. A warm welcome to both from Friends of Pakati!
I am sorry to report that Mrs Pindura had been the victim of burglary in recent weeks, and as a result, has now moved to another school some 40-odd kilometers away. I am hoping she will settle in quickly, and give us a report on her progress soon.
It is great to see Pakati Primary trying to improve the school environment for both staff & pupils.
Many thanks to Nickson Dzimauta for the pics and information below. Nickson can be seen in several photos wearing the red shirt.
The Early Childhood Development (ECD) block swen above is now completed, thanks to the local tradesmen involved in painting it inside & out.
The toilets for school staff we also redecorated, as part of the general improvements to the school exterior.
So far we have sold just short of £320 worth of goods, and so far this year have received over £1120 in donations. We still have plenty of items available to buy, such as T-shirts, mugs, badges, coasters and key rings.
Friends of Pakati is in the middle of a difficult period, which I will discuss in the next blog. The future may take us in new directions, into new collaborations. I hope we can move forward from our current struggles and help the two Pakati schools – and maybe other nearby schools too – with things like computers, books, materials, sports equipment, internet and many more things. But in order to succeed, we will need some help…find out what and how in the next blog👍
I have just heard again from the founder of VaTonatsa Foundation, Vari Mayez. We here at Friends of Pakati have now worked together on three separate occasions with VaTonatsa, and I have no doubt there will be more opportunities to collaborate in the future.
This has been our most recent co-operation, and it is still ongoing. We still need any books for children aged 3 to 18 you have going spare, or are about to throw away, plus any useful school materials – pens, pencils, rulers, maths sets, erasers, card, paper, etc.- so we can send them to VaTonatsa to share in two districts in Zimbabwe. Plesse contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM me at http://Twitter.com/friendsofpakati
Cash donations are also acceptable for us to buy equipment for the children, either here to send, or to forward on to VaTonatsa to buy locally. Please use http://Paypal.me/friendsofpakati and add the words ‘school books’ so I can ring-fence purely for this project.
It is possible to send books/materials direct if you wish. Scarlet Boutique ZW is a shop managed by Vari, and are responsible for receiving the donations on behalf of Vatonatsa Foundation so that there is a central place for collections in Harare. They are located at – shop 11 Whitecroft Building, 57 Central Avenue, Harare.
Friends of Pakati meet VaTonatsa and Councillor Israel Maliki at Pakati Secondary school, Sept 2019
Vari has told me that the two areas we are helping include Ward 14 in Murewa district, where both Pakati schools would benefit, and an area of Mutoko, where one of her school friends comes from. He lives in the UK , but wishes to remain anonymous at this stage, but is looking to help in his own local community back home in a similar way, hence his joining in with us. I spoke to him recently and we plan to collaborate further on this matter.
There have been donations by individuals and businesses, in Zimbabwe and the UK, including (in no particular order) WiseKids, Blitz, Max Bell and several others, below are some of the items given by WiseKids who specialise in materials of children ages 3-6:
Vari is in contact with the local authorities in Murewa, including Dr Gurajena of Murewa Rural District Council and Ward 14 Councillor, Alderman Israel Maliki. They are to discuss the possible setting up of a library in the Ward, or if there is sufficient donations, in each of the 3 school groups – Chanetsa (Pri & Sec), Mapanga (Pri) and Pakati (Pri & Sec).
As her Aunt is Head of Mapanga Primary, Mrs Maenzanise, Vari also discussed the project on a recent visit to her home in Murewa district. Mrs Maenzanise welcomed the idea, and said the school will welcome the development with open arms.
She said it will be great to hear what Murewa RDC propose so that the school can also help pool resources towards the cause. She hoped that due to the distances the three schools are separated by, that it would be wonderful if stakeholders can build libraries at the individual schools so that children have more centralized access.
Another organisation which we here at Friends of Pakati have a partnership with are The TeamCaro Foundation, and they are also looking for donations of books & materials for us to send.
So, can you help? Do you know someone who can? Is there a school near you willing to help? Are there things being cleared out where your children go? Please let us know! email@example.com
This photo was taken in August 2019, in the kitchen at my home. It features my youngest son, Daniel, then aged 17.
Daniel was helping by adding software and anti-virus protection to all 10 machines we were sending to Pakati schools.
I had just recently collected the donations on computers for Pakati schools from the Stephenson Group Ltd of Leeds – see their website https://www.stephensonpersonalcare.com for more details about the company.
The Author with Stuart Pine, IT manager at the Stephenson Group holding one of the computers they donated to Friends of Pakati in July 2019.
Dan had accompanied me when I drove to Leicester to ship the equupment to Zimbabwe….
…and had been an active participant in the sponsored walk we did to raise money towards the cost of the shipping of the goods.
Those items were successfully presented to the schools for use in September 2019….
…and we are intending to repeat the process as soon as we can!
This year we are getting another donation of computers – we think 20 – from the same company, the Stephenson Group from Leeds.
Returning students gathering at the entrances to Pakati Secondary school this week
The staff welcomed them back to school at the various entrances, with teachers screening students on theiir arrival. Below are Mr Ediyeti (right) and Mr Chizenya carrying out the screening:
Back in class, students and staff alike were obviously glad to be back!
Good to see that the school was well prepared, with covid protovols in place including cleaning stations outside every classroom. At present, due to covid restrictions, there are no breaks, nor any after-school sports or other activities. It is hoped they will re-commence before too long.
Before the lessons restarted, staff gathered at the Administration Block for a meeting. They took the opportunity to have a photo or two taken…
Front row: Mr Chifaka (Head), Mr Ediyeti (Senior Master), Mrs Chingoriwo, Mrs Katonha, Ms Mwaashidzana, Mrs Munatswa
Back row: Mr Chizenya (Acting Deputy Head), Mr Magabadza, Mr Katonha,
….but I noticed not everyone I knew was there…
I have received some unexpected news this week…one of the staff I met on my (re)visit in 2018, Mrs Pindura, has been a frequent contributor to this blog, with photos, information and stories – I have just learned that she is being transferred to another school, as is another colleague, Mr Mapwere.
Left to right: Mrs Pindura, Mrs Munatswa, Mr Chifaka & Mr Chizenya, September 2018
On behalf of Friends of Pakati, I would like to say a huge THANK YOU! to Mrs Pindura for her assistance, and wish her the very best wherever she ends up working. I hope she will keep us updated on what happens, and reflect on her time at Pakati here on the blog.
Welcome to the third in our series of Featured Photos, with the story behind it. I have chosen this particular one, taken in 1989, for a number of reasons…
Firstly, it is one of the very few I have from that time which I am actually in. I don’t remember who took it, or even if it was with my own camera or not.
However, secondly, it is also the only group photo with most of my colleagues at Pakati Secondary school.
Thirdly, it shows me in what really was the happiest time of my life. I often tell people it was the best thing I ever did, not least because without it, many things which happened subsequently might never have happened, or would have been very different – for example such as further study, marriage, children, career, etc.
In that picture are the people I worked with in my first year at Pakati, with the exception of the Head, Mr Samakomva. They are, back row (l to r) Mr Kashangura, Mr Choga and Mr Gororo, the front row (l to r) the Author, Mr Nyamauya, Mr Mutatapasi, Mr Murwira and Mr Chirape.
The house I shared during my stay at Pakati…the blue door lead to the kithchen area, my room was the one on the right.
Most memorable for me, are Mr Martin Nyamauya (Deputy Head), who most helped me settle in when i first got to Pakati in January 1989, and the two teachers I shared a house with that year, Mr George Mutatapasi & Mr Regis Chirape.
I remember we took turns to cook, using a small 2-ring gas st stove provided by VSO, and a couple of parafin stoves. We cooked whatever we could buy locally, often from families whose children attended either Pakati school, or a local store (see below for an example), so things such as eggs, chicken, green vegetables, tomatoes, onions, beef, corned beef, kapenta (small dried fish) as well as rice, potatoes and the main staple, maize. Plenty of fresh fruit around too – mangoes, bananas, oranges.
Taluu store opened at the end of my first year, and was a typical rural Zimbabwean shop.
That first year was a steep learning curve for me, with so may changes to what I was used to, e.g. no running water (had to hand-pump it myself & carry it maybe 30 metres to the house) and no electricity (mostly used battery power, solar rechargeable and/or parafin), plus getting used to the climate, the school procedures, the language & accent, transport, the smells, tastes, sights and sounds of the place. All of it was new & took some getting used to!
At the end of my first week, I couldn’t wait to get back to the city of Harare, where I could access most mod cons. However, over the period of the first term (13 weeks) something had changed, and by the end of it, I couldn’t wait to get back to the school if I was away over the weekend.
“… people in the community they liked you. You were very humble and wanted to learn more of our culture. You really blended well with the community and the community embraced you and we became one family.”
It is hardly surprising that this time of my life has never left me, nor that I should now be helping both Pakati schools in their quest to get IT equipment, in order to try and help the students do well, and by extension, help the community too.
Quite recently, schools in Zimbabwe were informed that they would be re-opening on Monday, 30th August, after an extended break. This would be for Exam classes first – Form 4 and Grade 7 for the two Pakati schools – followed by all other students one week later, on 6th September.
Students arrive at Pakati Secondary school, waiting for the screening process as part of Covid 19 protocols.
The Covid 19 situation in Zimbabwe appears to be improving, with reports of an upsurge in demamd for vaccinations.
School staff have a briefing to discuss arrangements following the return of exam class (Form4) students
It was good to see lessons re-starting at Pakati Secondary, especially as these Form 4 students are so close to writing their exams in a few weeks time.
Mrs Katonha conducting the Shona lesson
Staff at the school are also following Covid 19 protocols. Below are teachers Mrs Mwaashidzana and Mrs Munatswa.
I would like to thank Mrs Munatswa for the photographs and the information.
Mrs Munatswa, The Author, and Mrs Pindura (Deputy Head) September 2019