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 spent the last 13 years as a Civil Servant in Bradford. I married a Zimbabwean woman & we have 2 sons.
This particular blog relates to a fact of life: death and its consequences. What I write here is only limited to the permission granted of those involved.
My friend and the local councillor for the Ward 14 of Murewa District, Alderman Israel Maliki, only two days ago found out his father had passed away. Yesterday, within 24 hours, he was having to arrange the burial, while limiting mourners to a maximum of 50 under strict government orders during lockdown. Many who would travel to the funeral could not do so due to travel retrictions. Here is what he sent to me:
“….the whole family fabric is disjointed at the moment given that not all can manage to attend, some are across the country, some spread in all the towns of Zimbabwe and the conditions put forward for someone who died at home are just unbearable. We have 24 hours to have a burial order, to get our funeral services, also needed for those who wish to travel for the funeral which is proving to be very impossible. But we need to be very brave and face the situation as it is because we have no-one to blame except put everything to the Lord for guidance!”
Post script to Councillor Maliki’s comments above – I received another message this morning from him, saying how difficult he found it to stick to the restrictions as so many turned up, and also to get them to socially distance themselves. He did say a number of closer relatives were unable to attend due to travel restrictions, but customary practices were carried out.
Another friend of mine lives and works abroad many miles from home, and recently learned of the passing of a close family member. He could not return if he wanted due to travel restrictions worldwide. Skype is how he attended the funeral of his late relaltive, it was a very difficult time for all of the family.
Here in the UK, also under a kind of lockdown, some people are also struggling during bereavement. Someone I know has lost a relative recently, an elderly relative who died in a care home, but the family have not been allowed to visit during their final days and hours. No-one is being allowed to attend inside the crematoriums. This has caused additional pain on top of their obvious grief. I am also hearing stories on our news broadcasts of people being buried with almost no-one present, including young (children) victims of the Covid-19 virus.
Thankfully, I have more upbeat posts to come….please keep an eye out for future posts. Stay safe, follow the guidance given, protect your family, community and local health services. Please.
Across the world countires are in various stages of the virus and of lockdown, with different approaches too. However, no matted where you are – UK, Zim, SA, NZ, Aus, USA, Europe, Asia, Africa Middle East, Pacific, Americas – then you will be affected in some way.
Here are some of the things I have seen from various friends of Pakati…more blogs to come, some happy, some sad.
Some can sit outside to eat…
Some can take time to rest….
Some have children or families to look after…
Some cannot leave the yard…..
some are staying at the school
and some…..get their 18 year old son to help as hairdressers and barbers are all closed right now
I would like to make a request, to all who are in one way or another, a Friend of Pakati. Whether you are a sponsor or a donor, a teacher of either Pakati school in the past or present, a follower of us on this website/blog, on twitter or on facebook, or a former student of either or both Pakati school, or someone who has become interested in this project, I am requesting something please – can you tell me how you are dealing with the various levels of lockdown you are experiencing? can you send me any short videos or photos? Anything you would be happy for me to include on the blog to share.
I want to tell your stories, compare what is happening with others wherever you are in the world, share tales good or bad, and illustrate them where possible.
A REST…from fundraising for the time being. Most activities have necessarily halted temporarily, so it makes sense to pause for now. I am still losing weight so that will continue, but will not be asking for donations right now – but if anyone DOES feel like giving, however small, then the fundraising page remains open 24/7
Also, as I mentioned, some of the teachers have chosen to stay at school. If I had been in Zimbabwe I think I would prefer to be at Pakati rather than in the city. Here is one of them, who is remaining there with her family.
Around Zimbabwe people are now in lockdown…thanks to Councillor Maliki and members of the Ward 14 Murewa whats app group for the following pictures.
Harare is usually a vibrant, bustling city. Not at the moment though…
Coming soon…. I will select some of the older posts to update and re-blog, along with any other new stories I receive from my sources wherever they are. Thanks to all contributors for your help – please keep news and pictures coming whenever you can!
Schools across Zimbabwe closed by 9am this Tuesday under Government orders, with many teachers leaving by 10am. We don’t know when schools will re-open or what will happen when they do.
In the rural area I am familiar with, it seems strange to see the schools so empty, even though it happens every term. The uncertainty around the date of return seems to make it feel very different this time.
Mapanga Primary school, based in the same Ward 14 of Murewa District as Pakati, is also looking strangely quiet…
Many schools have had to cancel forthcoming events, Mapanga among them.
I understand from Vatonatsa Foundation they will run the event at the first opportunity once schools return.
Mapanga has had to delay some building work, Mrs Maenzanise tell us “We intend to do the concrete slab as soon as we open schools. Builders cannot continue during this time as there is no-one to account for the cement” Pictures below show the current unfinished buìlding.
However, it seems there is an opportunity to do some work on the school buildings at Pakati. One prority for Pakati has been additional security for the Admin block, where the current staffroom doubles as a computer room. Mr Chifaka has been able to get local workmen to start putting new burglar bars around the block, which should be complete within a week.
Here is what they should look like on completion, all around the staff/computer ròom in the Admin block.
The schools now closed will, I am sure, be very keen to get started again but only as soon as it is safe to do so.
It is clear that although things are going to be quiet over the coming weeks and months, it doesn’t mean that there won’t be any progress. I will report on any news as I get it from the schools, and on any other goings on from the community themselves.
My thanks to Mr Mahachi (Primary Head) and Mr Magabaza (Secondary Teacher) for the pictures and information provided below, and Vari Marez of Vatonatsa Foundation for the President’s statement
“The lessons went as usual up to yesterday. This term we could not manage to have learners write end of term tests as we were given short notice regarding closing of schools for the term. So on the closing day (today) no reports were given to learners.
We carried out a general cleaning of the school on the closing day, before the Head Mr Chifaka made some announcements at assembly. We dismissed learners early at around 9am, as we had been instructed by the DSI in light of the President’s announcement yesterday, that no more gatherings of more than 50 people are allowed anymore to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 disease.”
Both Pakati schools closed earlier today, and assemblies held before students were dismissed.
These are uncertain times for teachers. Some have gone to their home areas, some are staying at school for now with their families.
Those staying have as I understand it, their own vegetable plots & can grow a lot of their food. Some have chickens for meat and for eggs. There is some uncertainty about teachers salaries though, as they are waiting to hear about it.
One teacher had this to say today: “I think it is ideal for everyone, both learners and teachers, since this safeguards their welfare and it minimises the spreading of the virus, at the same time teachers will have extended holiday!”
Of course we have no idea how long the closure will last, but in several countries, lockdowns are starting as 2-3 weeks to begin with then extending. Others are going for 12 weeks before reviewing the situation. It is perhaps likely that the whole of the next term (winter – in the Souhern Hemisphere) will be lost.
More to come as I hear from the teachers themselves and other community members!
I have a few things to discuss on here, so bear with me please, this may be quite a long one…
This website/blog came about following my return to Pakati after an absence of some 27 years, in September 2018. I saw some changes and developments, and saw some things were as before. Mr Mugove Chifaka, current Head of Pakati Secondary school was instrumental in the setting up of the project to bring IT to both Pakati schools, and we have consulted regularly ever since. I also often chat to several teachers there, plus the Head of the Primary school, Mr Mahachi, and a number of his staff. They have provided me with a lot of material which has helped me show the need for assistance, and guided me through local customs and protocols. I started out with a simple goal of getting some computers to Pakati, but the vision has widened this year – see https://friendsofpakati.com/2020-vision-friends-of-pakati-the-project-continues/
I continue to try and raise funds for the project – see http://gofundme.com/friends-of-pakati although larger events I was relying on have been at least postponed to some unknown future date. I have therefore adapted one – ‘Get TIED UP for Pakati’ – to an online event which can gather funds slowly if necessary, but can go quicker with a relaunch when some sort of normality returns…the second one involving my fellow former VSO teacher Debbie Chadbon, is waiting for a suitable opportunity to come up for her to run 10km on our behalf. Fingers crossed!🤞Other planned smaller events are postponed for now.
We cannot predict the future with any certainty right now, but I believe the coming months will see a gradual return and recovery from the current situation globally, which will enable Friends of Pakati to re-emerge, and will see our efforts rewarded once we relaunch our cause. There is genuine support for Friends of Pakati both here in the UK, and among people with close links to Pakati past and present, wherever they may be.
The reality is that this will slow us down, for some months, maybe longer. Who knows? At present, therefore, I am only making tentative plans. Here is where things stand right now:
The blog – this will continue for the forseeable future, though it is likely to become a weekly event rather than the almost daily posts I am currently doing. As I need some help to keep it going, I intend to gather new stories from other former students and staff of both Pakati schools, and will re-blog some of the older stories occasionally, sometimes with relevant updates. I want to invite all readers to have their say on here – please can you message me on any of these contacts if you have a story to tell, an article to publish, a question to ask, a suggestion to make, or any comments good or bad : http://facebook.com/Friends-of-pakati or http://twitter.com/friendsofpakati or by email email@example.com or even here on http://friendsofpakati.com using the comments section. I look forward to many more contributions, wherever you are, whatever your connection to us as a donor, a supporter, a sponsor, a follower, a reader, a contributor, or just a good friend of Pakati.
Thefundraising – although it will necessarily slow down, you can be sure I will be trying to find ways of getting more donations for the project once things pick up again. I am encouraged by the fact that occasional donations are still coming in, so that eventually I hope to be able to meet our priorities, even if it carries on into 2021.
The visit – my next visit was planned for September 2020, but I have to be realistic and say that is unlikely to happen this year. Plan B is to visit late January/early February 2021, although it could easily be later, maybe April/May. We dont know. I do know that once it becomes clearer, I will fix a date to come to Pakati, and hope to see as many of you as I can.
Thefuture – following a number of conversations with several people, I am seriously looking at some sort of collaboration with locally based organisations and others interested in small-scale development in the area, widening to more of Ward 14 of Murewa District. There is also a suggestion I apply to have Friends of Pakati recognised in Zimbabwe as either a Trust, or a PVO (Private Voluntary Organisation), I am considering this too. It may be that some sort of umbrella organisation is set up, perhaps just a website, which will include Friends of Pakati and others, with funds raised being shared to benefit the Ward. This is pure speculation at present, but if any of you have any comments or suggestions, please feel free to contact us on those contacts mentioned above.
Theschools – I hope very much the two Pakati schools emerge from this situation with little or no long term effects, and that I can continue to support them for some time to come. I will remain in touch with both schools, and as many of you – supporters of Friends of Pakati in your own ways – as I can, through the various channels available in order to keep people updated.
Take care of yourselves, look after your families and communities, do what you need to do to keep from getting the virus, stay in touch, stay safe.