Joint venture – Back-story and responses

On May 28th this year, I posted this message here on the blog: marking the formal agreement to enter into a joint initiative to help exam students at 2 Primary schools (Pakati and Mapanga) and one Secondary school (Pakati). Following further discussions with those 3 schools, Councillor Israel Maliki of Ward 14 in Murewa where these schools are situated, VaTonatsa Foundation, and other key supporters of Friends of Pakati, we added the other 2 schools in the Ward, Chanetsa Primary and Secondary – see for more details.

The overall view from all the people involved, and from the local communities, is very positive indeed. We feel vindicated in our efforts, and think that it has been well worth all the hard work. The feedback from the schools and others tells us all we need to know, some of it is shown further down this blog.

In view of this new collaboration, Friends of Pakati felt the need to boost its limited finances, and requested donations to help us contribute significantly to the venture. As a result, we added ยฃ300 from those generous enough to donate. Key to this was Roj Rahman of Mortz Property Service in Scunthorpe (the Author’s home town), and fellow former teacher at Pakati (also ex-VSO) Debbie Chadbon.

Below is Roj’s reasoning for giving to Friends of Pakati, for which we are most grateful as we may not have been able to help quite as much without it:

“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be involved and make a contribution to a very worthy cause.
Knowledge is power and to help the next generation move forward to achieve peace, prosperity and progress is through education.
I wish you and Friends of Pakati and VaTonatsa Foundation to continue the excellent work and wish you all the best of health and continued success.
Roj Rahman
Mortz Property Services”

Following these donations, Friends of Pakati has sent US$500 to VaTonatsa as we agreed to split the cost of the production of the booklets for the 5 schools. See below the pictures of the recent delivery to the Primary schools and read about it here:

Green: Ngomamowa, Blue: Shavanhowe river, Red: bottom left to top right – Pakati Primary & Secondary together, Chanetsa Primary, Chanetsa Secondary, and Mapanga Primary schools

See more about Pakati Secondary school here

This is how our agreement has worked out – 159 students at Pakati Primary, Pakati Secondary and Chanetsa Secondary school students are covered by Friends of Pakati, while 115 students at Mapanga and Chanetsa Primary schools are covered by VaTonatsa Foundation. The split of US$500 : US$302 is not far from a fair reflection according to the 159 : 115 student split.

I am now delighted to have posted the report on completion of this joint venture with the production of booklets for the 2 Secondary schools, and delivery on Saturday 4th July 2020.

Delivery at Pakati and Chanetsa Secondary schools is shown below:

From the very beginning of this joint venture, Friends of Pakati and VaTonatsa Foundation have worked tirelessly together to bring it to fruition. We have collaborated with ideas, and with money, but definitely with a co-operative spirit that has been refreshing. The successful outcome has been entirely due to this co-operation. I think it is right that we include as many of the names as we can of those behind the initiative, from start to end.

For VaTonatsa Foundation, it has included Vari Marez, Yvonne Ncube-Zulu, Chiedza Manhera and Celia, all pictured. Also making notable contributions are Tashinga Muyengwa and Mildred, but there may be others too I am not aware of. I have to say I admire their work ethic in getting everything organised locally to produce and deliver it all to the 5 schools.

For the Schools, Mr Mugove, Mr Mahachi, Mr Mawedze, Mr Kadzimu and Mrs Maenzanise/Mr Vhuso. I would also like to thank all of the teachers at the various schools, whether I know them or not, for the incredible work they do to educate their students, in addition the School Development Committees and backroom staff who are also vital in supporting the learning environment.

From Murewa Rural District Council, thank you for approving the dustribution of the booklets, Dr Gurajena and of course, local councillor for Murewa Ward 14, Alderman Israel Maliki.

Last but not least, Friends of Pakati. Started by myself, but the inspiration to continue and to develop it comes from regular contributors and correspondents, such as former students Bothwell Riside and Lorraine Mapuranga in particular, both of whom I know very well personally. These have also more recently been added to I am delighted to say by another former teacher, Debbie Chadbon.

Here are some of the comments we have recently received about this joint initiative:

Mrs Maenzanise, Head of Mapanga Primary sent me this messsge: “Hello my friend Chris. Thanks so much for bringing our area to greatest height. Our learners have been introduced to a new thing in their lives. Revising while at home with the help of relatives and friends during the covid period. We really appreciate your love and help for them to excel in their school work. The material will go a long way. At our school almost three quarters have collected to date. Only a few who live far will collect this coming week. Thanks to all others behind the scenes. Be blessed”

From Mr Mawedze, Head of Chanetsa Secondary school: “Hello Mr Walker. Chanetsa Secondary are greatly appreciating the great effort you made to suport our form 4 learners with these booklets Our teachers and learners work is going to be that much easier. May God bless you sir. I am going to send you photos we were taking to witness this wonderful occasion.”

From social media:

William Elias said “May God bless you more……we thank you for your response.”

Antony Munyaradzi Chafa: “You’re doing a very good work for my community, I really appreciate everything.”

Thonsi: “This good deed will go far and wide in building the community and changing lives. Thank you Vatonatsa and Friends of Pakati.”

From Vari Mayez herself: “

On behalf of VaTonatsa I want to say thank you to Alderman Maliki for unifying and supporting us.
I want to thank Mr Walker and your team like Lorraine, Bothwell etc. I thank all the teachers in the ward who made this a success, our leaders in the community, the Village heads allowing us to come in, and the parents represented by all SDC members, thank you. May this love live on!

Tinotenda chose wose munhu ane chekuita nebasa iri totenda wose munhu akatsigira. Rudo urwu ngaruwedzere.”

Efforts like this are invaluable to the students, and many more will benefit from them in the future. They are free to the schools, as VaTonatsa Foundation and Friends of Pakati have themselves paid the approximate cost of US$800 in total between us. We have done so by raising funds (see above) and for us at Friends of Pakati, our meagre resources have now reduced significantly in spite of the recent donations. We now have less than ยฃ190 in the bank, so before we can do much more we will need further injections of money. They can be in small sums or large, from individuals or groups or businesses, we don’t mind. Please do give if you can, wherever in the world you are, so we can continue to help. Thanks to all of you who give via or use the paypal links on the side and at the foot of this blog.

Pakati Memories….part 2 – sports, entertainment and so much more!

Here I am at the (then new to me) signboard for Pakati schools, in September 2018, just before my first visit to the school since 1992. It re-ignited my interest in the school and community, giving me the chance to at least partially repay them for an unforgetable 32 months from January 1989 to September 1991. Below are more of my experiences, feelings, thoughts and descriptions of my time at Pakati. I have posted some of these in earlier pieces here on the blog, but I feel they deserve to be part of a larger story. Firstly, here is how the school got its name…

When the original Primary school, which was built largely by the local community, was under construction, there was a dispute between two families who lived nearby – the Chihumbiri’s and the Chinhoyi’s (the Primary school was actually known as Chinhoyi school initially). They both wanted the school to be named after them. They were both involved in the building, both had children attending from day one. As neither would give way, the families eventually came to a typical Zimbabwean compromise, and decided to call it Pakati, which in the Shona language means ‘in between’.

First term at school – January to April – usually means sports, in the form of athletics. Running, jumping, throwing. Pakati has often produced some very good athletes, and it is a tradition which seems to continue. For me, the memory is of one particular girl, Juliana Chiroodza, who excelled in sprinting, and proved very good at high jump too. Below are pictures of Juliana in action, and of the most recent successes, Paidamoyo Lynn Mutemeri, Winnie Masiya and Beauty Mugule.

Class sizes seem to have changed little over the years, in my first year, 1989, Form 1 had 2 classes of around 50 students in each, similar in form 2. Form 3 had one class of arould 70, and Form 4 was around 40 students. I taught Maths to forms 2, 3 and 4. I seem to recall teaching Commerce too, but I am a bit vague on that๐Ÿ˜.

There was entertainment around at Pakati, in various forms. One time we had a drama group come and give a short play about the dangers of AIDS, and a local lad strung a wire up between two trees, then did what is best described as a low-wire act…I also remember one evening/night someone came with a film projector and some short films, mostly in English, and included a fair few music clips, which were then projected onto a wall of the Primary school. We sat were we could, on the floor or a small raised area which I think as an anthill of some sort.

For myself, entertainment at Pakati was a mixtute of things. I had a radio/cassette player and a number of cassette tapes with music I loved, I listened a lot to them, local ZBC radio, and the BBC World Service on a Saturday afternoon. This allowed me to catch up with football scores from the UK, especially to find out about my favourite club, the mighty Iron – Scunthorpe United FC. My elder brother paid for me to receive The Guardian Weekly – a version of the UK national daily newspaper. I wrote and recevied many letters from home, mostly my Mum (on behalf of Dad), occasionally my brothers, some friends from college and a girlfriend at the time. I also read a LOT of books. I borrowed them from volunteers, from the British Council Library, and used book exchange shops and book retailers in Harare.

Weekends at Pakati often involved going to Chigwada in my first year with it being the nearest shops, and one of my favourite memories of walking there has been reported on this blog before, but is well worth repeating – the best question I have ever been asked:

To get to Chigwada was a 40 minute walk. 30 minutes to get to the dirt road, then walk along it, round a curve in the road, before walking towards the store past the grinding mill. At the apex to the curve there was a homestead and one day as I walked past, I was asked the best question anyone has ever asked me. I heard a voice of a small child, a young girl of maybe 5 or 6 years old, and as she ran from her home to the gate to greet me, she said at the top of her voice:

‘Why are you?’

To this day I am unable to answer. But I did respond after a short stunned silence:

‘I am fine and how are you?’

She ran off clearly delighted, laughing all the way back to her home.

Here are some pics around Chigwada area…

After about a year, a new store opened much closer to the school, called Taluu/Taloo. It was owned by a lady from Harare, run by her mother. We were now able to buy basic items much closer to home. When Maxine Ison and myself ended our time at Pakati, the store threw a big party for us, with many from the community and both schools in attendance.

Away from Pakati, I will talk about travel and tourism in a later post, but any weekend I was in Harare, or occasionally Mutare, myself and fellow VSO volunteers would look for fims to watch at the cinema, restaurants to eat at, or live music to watch. These are the bands I remember seeing during the 32 months I spent in Zimbabwe – The Real Sounds of Africa, the Four Brothers, Oliver Mutukudzi, Jonah Moyo, Robson Banda, Stella Chiweshe, Biggie Tembo, Musi & Ilanga, The Runn Family – at a number of different venues. We did sometimes go to other volunteers places too, and some came to visit at Pakati.

One thing I do remember early on, I had been there a few weeks so thought I was getting used to it all. It got cloudy & very dark as the rain was about to fall – something it did with spectacular results of heavy rain and forked lightning across the sky. I quickly walked to the classroom I was due to teach in, and the instinct of reaching for a light switch took over without thinking….the students looked at me as if to say ‘what is he doing’? No electricity means no light switch….

During my second year, 1990, I became involved in a small scale development project at the school, following visits to other volunteers and what they had done. I spoke to our Head, Mr Samakomva, and we came up with an idea for an agriculture plot with fencing, a borehole and a water tank. I arranged funding via the British High Commission, who had a small-scale development fund we coould apply for. We did have a celebration event at the school, with the High Commissioner in attendance along with local dignatories.

Over time, the fencing and tank have gone, but the now community borehole remains, being well maintained by the Murewa Rural District Council’s District Development Fund. It is a legacy I am delighted to have left for people to use.

There was, around the area, lots of animal life and not all of it was as harmless as a gecko on the wall! There were ants and beetles, geckos and cockroaches, large spiders which seemed to be seasonal, snakes, scorpions, bats, chameleons, and a wide variety of birdlife.

In 1990, the staff was joined by a new VSO volunteer, Maxine Ison from Sheffield, who came to teach English. She was at Pakati from September 1990 to August 1991, leaving at the same time as I did.

From another earlier blog called ‘The Day I was Surprised’, here is what happened to me from the end of 1990…

Life at Pakati had settled down to a gentle pace by 1990, and after 2 years I decided to take a trip home. Flights were paid for by VSO, along with an extra allowance for extending my contract to the end of August 1991. The intention was to study for a Masters to start in October that year.

I went home to spend time with family at Christmas in Scunthorpe, followed by New Year with friends in Bradford. At times the contrast between my life in England and my life in Zimbabwe was remarkable, but at the beginning of January 1991 I returned to Pakati.

On my return to the school, I learned that Mr Samakomva, the Headmaster, had fallen ill and was unlikely to return. After going go the Primary school to consult with Mr Rugoyi (their Head), about the situation and to get the key for the schools post box in nearby (2 bus rides away..) Murehwa. He suggested I visit the Ministry of Education staffing offices there.

I talked at length to Mr J J Matanhire, the Staffing Officer, about the school, and he promised me he would sort things out for us. I set off back, and made my way to Musami, a small township a few kilometres from Pakati. I went to a local store which had a cafe, ordered some sadza ne nyama (local food – maize, beef, relish and green vegetables) and waited for the bus back to Pakati due around an hour later.

While I was waiting, talking to a friend in Musami, a woman came up to me and said to me ‘Are you Mr Walker? I said yes, I am. She then handed me a letter, introducing her as a new teacher at the school, but it was addressed to:

Mr C. Walker

Acting Head

Pakati Secondary School


Carrying the signature of Mr Matanhire, the staffing officer I had spoken to less than 2 hours before!

From Newly Qualified Teacher to Head teacher in 2 years was quite a surprise to me to say the least!

Good to end on another gratuitous sunset. More to come….my time as Acting Head, more pictures of former staff, students and people I knew, family stuff. Also, as Zimbabwe was a great tourist destination (and can be again) I will illustrate stories about my adventures away from Pakati school where I can.

Final Delivery of Booklets – Pakati and Chanetsa Secondary schools

Saturday 4th July 2020 marked the end of our joint venture with VaTonatsa Foundation, seeing the O Level (GCSE) booklets produced and delivered to the two remaing schools. Some masks were also provided, according to Vari Mayez of VaTonatsa Foundation…โ€œTine ma mask atichakupai ๐Ÿ˜ท !โ€ (There are some masks which we will share with those present, some are branded, others plain). Pakati Secondary and its sister school Chanetsa Secondary finally received their packs, and this blog celebrates that delivery.

During the previous week, Vari and her team managed to ensure the production of the booklets was completed in time for the pre-arranged delivery on the Saturday. Here is what happened at the two schools in picture form:

Vari Mayez is seen with Yvonne Ncube-Zulu, Trustee of VaTonatsa, buying bread & fruit for the school Heads and SDC members. They collected Councillor Israel Maliki from his home, before setting up first at Pakati Secondary.

In the pictures can be seen Mr Mugove Chifaka, Head of Pakati Secondary in the white shirt, along with Mrs Darangwa, SDC member wearing blue, and local youth leader Mr Z Kandikita in the red shirt. Councillir Maliki once more is seen wearing the football scarf I gave him last year, for the Iron (Scunthorpe United). Some of the masks donated are shown being worn.

Mr Chifaka had this to say about the delivery of the booklets:

“On behalf of Pakati Secondary school, l thank Friends of Pakati and Vatonatsa Foundation for their work in favour of Ward 14 learners. The examinations books they prepared for us will be of great use to the learners and will prepare them for their final examinations.

Today we received the the books which contain examination questions for all the subjects offered by Pakati and Chanetsa secondary schools. These books are very important for for the learners’ revision and examination practice.

I also thank the teachers who privided the soft copies and Vatonatsa Foundation and Chris Walker (for Friends of Pakati) who filled the gaps of some examination papers that had not been submitted.

Thank you Alderman Maliki for your assistance and support. We promise that the books will be kept safely to benefit other future learners. May God bless Friends of Pakati and Vatonatsa Foundation by giving them more streangth to continue their invaluable work.”

From Pakati, the next stop was Chanetsa Secondary school.

In the pictures at Chanetsa can be seen the Head, Mr Mawedze (black jacket), Mrs M Panwandiwa, SDC member (long pink dress), and other SDC members.

Ina speech given by Mr Mawedze at the event, he said among other things, that “….it is still a young school, but with the hard work of the teachers across Form 1 to Form 4, they are excelling academically. These booklets will help us maintain that success during these difficult times. We are very happy to receive them, and thank the efforts of those behind it all, particularly VaTonatsa Foundation, Friends of Pakati and Councillor Maliki”.

All in all, another wonderful day, where Friends of Pakati is delighted to have been associated with VaTonatsa Foundation, and appreciate all of their efforts and those of the Councillor in bringing the venture to a successful conclusion.

I will post a blog soon on the back story, in some detail, with more pictures and information. In addition, I have more to post about my personal recollections still to come.

Pakati Memories…part 1

Allow me to begin by mentioning certain musical things which happened in the time leading up to my departure to Zimbabwe in early 1989, that definitely had an influence on me. They stretch back into my College days when as I said in the recent blog post, I met a Zimbabwean musician and his family here in Bradford, the city in which I have lived mostly since 1984.

The band he played in were called ‘Somebody’s Brother’, and I went with several fellow students to see them play wherever they were on, over a period of several years. Cecil Zinyuku (from the Headlands area of Zimbabwe) played bass guitar & sang, and I remember their wide mix of music did include some African songs from him.

Every year there was a music Festival all across the city in lots of venues, and I also remember seeing some African acts playing. Most notable were Mahlatini & the Mahotella Queens of South Africa, and my favourites, the Real Sounds of Africa of Zaire (from DRC), then based in Zimbabwe. I also listened to a radio DJ called John Peel who championed Zimbabwean/African music, especially the Bhundu Boys and the Four Brothers. Paul Simon’s Graceland album of 1985 had opened my mind to African music, and by the time I got to Zimbabwe I was already a big fan…

So, as I set out for Zimbabwe in January 1989 I was at least partially prepared, though a long way from being ready for what came to pass in the 32 months I was there. Here are several of my recollections, feelings, thoughts and experiences, some of which have been told in shorter posts much earlier in this blog, including among others. Where possible, I will tell them in chronological order, but as I am now 30 years older, I may not be that accurate in my memory!

As I described in the last few paragraphs of the previous blog, my journey from England to Zimbabwe was broken up with a brief, unscheduled stop over in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia. My first taste of Africa was not as I expected…but it did make arriving in Harare that much better, as it was a much more modern looking city than Addis.

My first taste of Zimbabwean food was on the day I arrived, a Tuesday, at a training centre North of Harare. Sadza – made from the staple, maize – with chicken, vegetables and a sauce/relish, was not to the liking of all of us there (we were 12 newly-arrived volunteers), but I took to it immediately. The training had initially been planned for the whole week, and was meant to include a fair amount of language learning. The delays caused by the stop-over meant VSO chose to cut out a lot of the language time sadly, as there were many more practical things to do, such as health briefings, acclimatising to the city, buying necessties, meeting staff & other volunteers. Then the preparations for the Saturday departure loomed large – but one night out in the city to watch the Four Brothers at Jobs Nightspot was just too tempting…

My arrival at Pakati was late on the Saturday, 14th January 1989, as I was the last of 3 volunteers being dropped at their new placements. Sunday was my first real day there, and I was welcomed and shown around the school area by Mr Nyamauya, the Deputy Head, and introduced to some of my new colleagues.

I first set foot inside a classroom at Pakati Secondary school on Monday, 16th January 1989, the 30th anniversary of which was celebrated by formally launching this blog/website, project, email address fundraising page and twitter account to be followed soon after by and involved a radio interview on BBC Radio Humberside’s Sports Talk programme. That broadcast eventually lead to the delivery of IT equipment to Pakati schools last year.

In all honesty, I remember very little of that first day, other than the looks on the faces of the students as they struggled to understand how I spoke at first. I have a vague recollection of an early lesson with a large (to me) Form 3 class of what I think was around 70 students, all crammed 4 together on benches/desks designed for 2. I was a Maths teacher, and I think it was about triangles!

Life at the school was very different to anything I had experienced before…I shared a house with two local colleagues, there was no electricity or running water, and the nearest shops were about 40 minutes walk away.

There was a borehole some 50 meters behind the house, and I did have some basic household equipmemt to use from VSO. We used parafin stoves and gas to cook & power a small fridge, candles and parafin lamps for light, plus I had a small solar charger and rechargeable batteries. We used one room for bathing, with the windows covered, as we had a tub and were able to heat water on the stoves. I learned to adapt very quickly.

After the initial shock and excitement of arriving, I did settle down, gradually getting used to my new situation. The Head, Mr Samakomva, had shown me round the Ministry of Education offices locally in the first week, but I also spent my first weekend in Harare with other VSO volunteers, making friends and learning how to survive, including getting around by whatever means possible…

I got used to living at Pakati, and for the most part, thoroughly enjoyed myself there. I have to admit I was a bit lazy in terms of learning Shona, but in mitigation, Zimbabweans generally are very good speakers of English, and among the students who weren’t so good, they wanted to practice their English by talking to me. Among the staff, all spoke good English.

My two housemates were George Mutatapasi (Brown cardigan, centre of front row) and Regis Chirape (Check jacket, front row, end right). Just in front of me holding a text book is Mr Nyamauya, whose daughter Cynthia shown below is now 33!

Mostly we did our own washing & cleaning, at least to begin with. Eventually, in return for paying school fees for some students, teachers would get help with chores…

So, in the early months, I settled down to life at Pakati, adapted to the change in pace of life, got used to the weather, understood more of how Zimbabweans spoke, and lived, especially out here in the rural areas. Getting to and from work has never been easier!

In the next part, I will talk about things like classes, sports, entertainment, animals, travel, tourism, and many other things besides….what better way than to end this part with sunset at Pakati in 1989!

How did I end up at Pakati?

A recent post on Facebook, and on twitter, by Vari Mayez of VaTonatsa Foundation – – saying “It all began with one September afternoon and now we are here @guiuan03 @friendsofpakati @vatonatsa” just reminded me of how it really started for me….here is the story I posted last May, now as one full story, of how I came to be a teacher in a rural school in Zimbabwe…

It began when I was living in Sheffield really, in early 1984. I was out of work & a bit lost to be honest. A friend of mine told me she thought I would make a good teacher, suggesting I applied for a teacher training course which would start in September that year. She also thought the best way to find out if I would enjoy it would be to volunteer in a local school.

I worked 2 days a week at a Middle school (ages 8-12), for 5 months, supporting a class teacher but also trying some lessons under his guidance. I ended up being invited to join them on a couple of school trips. When it came to the interviews for the course I had some good experiences to draw on, and knew I would enjoy teaching.

I trained at Bradford College, a 4-year B. Ed. (Hons) 1984 to 1988. As a student, I went out with friends, drinking in local bars where there were live bands playing. I watched one particular band often, who had a Zimbabwean bass player called Cecil Zinyuku. I got to know him and his family well. His sister (Dorcas, sadly now late) once asked what I was doing, and when I told her, she said “oh, you should come to Zimbabwe, we need teachers”. The idea was planted in my head…

As I completed the course I started applying for teaching jobs locally, but without success. Another friend thought I hadn’t really tried that hard, thinking I had already decided I wanted to teach abroad …

One weekend as I walked through Bradford city centre I saw a large double-decker bus parked up, with the letters VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) on the side. I had heard of them, so I was intrigued enough to go on board and find out more. I picked up some leafets & an application form. I filled it in & sent it off…this was August 1988. Within a few days I got invited for an interview….this turned out to be a whole day, early in September, with different activites including a 1 – to – 1 interview, brief lesson planning & delivery examples, and group discussions.

Some 10 days later lying in my bed in my flat, I heard the post arrive. I heard a thud hit the floor, and I knew before looking what it was – I had been accepted by VSO. Their letter had lots of information in it, with plans for my pre-departure training. Also by this time I had a temporary job which lasted until the Christmas period of 1988.

Throughout this time VSO were trying to source a job for me. It started with Sierra Leone, but they turned me down as I was a newly qualified teacher. Then it was the Solomon Islands, but that fell through as there was a coup, so no new volunteers would go there for the time being. It got to early December, I had done all the training….I had nowhere to go. Then out of the blue…

….Zimbabwe came to my rescue! I just wanted to go SOMEwhere..I said YES straight away, and things moved very quickly. By early January I was getting everything ready, for a departure from London Heathrow Airport on friday night, 6th January 1989. My parents and some of my friends came to see me off, quite an emotional time I can say….

While I was moving from being a student teacher into a potential VSO volunteer, Mr Samakomva, then Headmaster of Pakati Secondary school, was approaching VSO at their office in Harare to ask for a new Maths teacher for the school.

There was an arrangement between VSO and the Zimbabwean Government, specifically the Ministry of Education. Schools could request a teacher from the UK if they could meet a basic standard of accommodation.

VSO staff would visit the school more than once before agreeing to send a volunteer there, and a serving volunteer would also visit to do a report. The outline of VSO’s report combined the findings of both staff & volunteers, and it was sent to the prospective volunteer back in the UK.

The report I recieved about Pakati made it interesting to me….VSO staff’s part of it was fairly factual – ‘the school is in a remote rural area, east of Harare, with access by dirt road. It has around 300 pupils & 10 staff’. The serving volunteers part, who taught at a school North of Murewa, was more intruiging….

‘Pakati has a remote but pleasant feel about it. There is a small township a few km away (Musami), around an hours walk depending on the height of the intervening river (and the mood of the crocodiles…)’

My departure (along with 11 other new volunteers) turned out to be an anti-climax…we were booked onto a flight with Air Ethiopia, due to fly that Friday night, 6th January 1989. Having done the goodbyes, we waited…waited…and finally….

…our flight was cancelled! We were taken back through customs & booked into an hotel close by. We were fed & watered, then 24 hours later, we took off for Addis Ababa. On arrival, it became clear that there was no connecting flight to Harare until the Tuesday, so the Airline had to put us up in another hotel, in Addis, until the Tuesday. Our adventure had begun in an unexpected way…2 days & nights in the Ethiopian capital proved a real eye-opener to us all.

We did arrive in Harare on the Tuesday afternoon, to be met by VSO staff. We were taken to a training centre where our in-country training had been reduced. By the Friday evening several of us were ready for a night out, & ended up at Jobs Nightspot to watch the Four Brothers play live. Very enjoyable!

Saturday 14th January meant we were being taken to, and dropped off at, our new schools & homes. 3 of us went together, along with the volunteer who had done the report about Pakati. Firstly, Darren was dropped at Shamva, then Lucy was dropped near Mutoko. As the afternoon wore on, we finally arrived at Pakati. The other volunteer, Mick, helped me settle in by staying overnight.

Sunday 15th. I met the Deputy Head, Mr Nyamauya, and several staff for the first time. We went around the school and to the nearest store, 40 minutes walk away, where I met several members of the local community.

Monday 16th January 1989, my first official day as a teacher, is now a blur…I remember very little of it if I am honest. But it was, as they say, the first day of the rest of my life. An experince I will never forget, and I will always be grateful to Pakati school and the community for the opportunity to become one of them.

That, dear readers, is how I came to teach at Pakati 30 over years ago.

Chapters 8 and 9 – Outside Zim Borders



Edited by Chris Walker


The raindrops were hitting hard on my head. Some were cascading on my face blurring my vision as I made my way to the bus stop one morning. It was raining heavily. This was my fourth day at work. I was alone, l wasn’t gonna wait for my cousin sister. The last time I did that we ended up walking a 5 km distance on foot because we were late. Our boss was very punctual. We were supposed to start work at 8am, so she would come to pick us at the station at ten minutes before eight, and if you’re late it means you will walk and your salary will be deducted. I wasn’t worried about the salary deduction because as a part time employee I was exempted. I was worried about the walking distance in the rain. So that day I was going to work alone. I had mastered all the things to do

1. stir your finger in circles to indicate that you want the taxi to pick you up.
2, as soon as you get off the taxi at the rank run or walk fast to join your queue๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜ make sure you won’t hit people otherwise you don’t want to draw attention whilst you’re a foreigner.
3. never sit at the front in the taxi unless you have an ‘A’ in mathematics.
Sitting in front means you will be responsible for all the money and the changes so if you don’t know the language stay clear from the front seat.

I arrived at our picking point and waited in a Somalian shop since it was showering. I saw my cousin making her way down the foot bridge and I waved at her. She smiled at me.

“Mufana wakuziva manje wauya wega” ( little one you now know your way to work) she said that smiling and hugging me.

“I’m not that dumb๐Ÿ˜„ lol๐Ÿ˜„” I laughed.
“I can see that, so its already five minutes before eight let’s go”

Well the day went well and it was a Thursday.

“Hope the train will not delay today” said one of the coloured as we made our way to the platforms.

We were ditching the gate because they didn’t want to pay not me. I was willing to do every legal thing and follow all the rules but my colleagues here were teaching me new things.

There was a way were the security fence were cut. So we were to squeeze through that little gap and run through railway lines. There were four to five lines and the risk of being hit by a train was very high but seems like people didn’t care. That eight Rand for the ticket was more important than their lives.

Anyway we succeeded in dodging the security but then the train delayed. A lot of people were filling every space of the waiting area. In South Africa, train is the cheapest mode of transport so everyone opted for it.

So as a newbee I was observing everything at the train station. All the benches were full so we were sitting at the edge of the platform with our legs hanging out to the railway lines. The security came and warned us and he actually showed us the barrier line not that I haven’t seen it in the first place. I have seen that line and read the cautious but I was too tired to follow those rules.
Anyway the train came and my cousin sister Diana told me that I should get in the train faster.
“The train is going to stop for a minute only so make sure that you get in ten seconds or else you won’t make it” she warned me.

As soon as the train stops, people started to squeeze each other to get in. My cousin was already in the train shouting to me to get in. I tried to push people making my way to the door. The clock was ticking and after a long struggle I managed to get hold of a steel that was near the door. The train started to move. Only one foot was in the train. Someone was pulling my jacket from my back and cursing. The other one was pushing me out. I tightened my grip on that steel. My life was depending on that steel. The guy who was pulling my jacket was too heavy for me and I was chocking because he was pulling the collar. He was cursing me and I recognized his tone. He was coloured (historically, mixed-race people have been referred to as ‘coloured’ in SA). His life was depending on me and my jacket.

I flinched as I looked down on the railways. I gripped my hands harder to that steel with agitation. I could imagine falling down and having my body grinded by those hot steel that made the railways. I did a silent prayer for protection. I didn’t know how much longer I was going to hold on with my neck choking.

After a kilometer, I found a space to put my other foot. Actually I found myself inside the train. I sighed.

We arrived in Bellville and my cousin said we have to jump platforms and dodge the security again. I managed to climb on another platform with the help of one of the coloureds but the problem started when we were running down the steps to an underground gate way. I started feeling dizzy. I was telling myself to run in order to keep up with others but I couldn’t. I was feeling drowsy. I tried to make another step and I was hearing different voices saying ” hlala pantsi sis
(sit down sister).
People could see that I want to fall but I was fighting it. There was no way I was going to sit in the way. People were running from the security and I was supposed to keep up with my sister who was likely to be at the taxi rank already by the time I recovered.

When I told my sister she banned me from using the train. I was now afraid of trains. I started taking taxis to and from work.



Edited by Chris Walker


Saturday morning saw me getting prepared to hit the mall for the first time. I woke up early getting ready to go to the nearest mall which is Gugulethu mall. I had seen how big it is on my way to work. It shared the same area with the taxi rank. I had admired it and promised to take myself there one day. So today was the day I was going to explore it.

I told my sister that I’m visiting the mall. My uncle was at the parking area and I told him that I was leaving for the mall. He wasn’t impressed. He was scared that since I was still new I could get lost or kidnapped. He insisted that I should go with at least one of my nieces. Two of them were excited about the idea.

“I’m gonna drive you to the mall but when you’re coming back don’t get into any car. Only the Avanzas. They are called pella. You should check first who is inside. Don’t just get in a car with only men” he warned me. Well l had known of those cars. My cousin sister had told me about them.

My uncle took us to the mall and he dropped us in front of KFC. He gave us money to treat ourselves and he left for work.

The moment I stepped out of the car I started panicking. There were a lot of people and cars at the mall since it was weekend. I thought the idea of bringing these two kids were good but I was now scared of losing them. Honestly we just got into KFC and bought our food and left.
I asked my elder niece our home address but her answer couldn’t help. The drivers for Pella’s (small taxis) where screaming to us Uyaphi sisi ( where are you going sister). That phrase was the first I mastered when I arrived in Capetown. Did I tell you about language barrier? Oh I was suffering.

Luckily the kids were able to speak isiXhosa that was relieving.

“Uyaphi sisi ” another driver asked us.
“108” I replied
“Phi 108” he asked again.
“What?” I asked him “yooh sisi” he drove off.

“What was he saying” I asked my nieces .
“He said where are you going” she replied
” I heard that, but what did he say next?” I snapped

” I wasn’t listening mainini” she said that without even worrying.

Great. So we didn’t know were we stay. I only knew that its 108 but that was when you’re coming from Bellville. I didn’t even know the bus stop name but I was brave enough to utter the word Enkosi driver which means thank you driver whenever I got to my bus stop. Now I didn’t know what to say. Only one option left was to walk back home following the direction we came from. The kids seemed to be impressed by the idea. They seem to be familiar with the place. That gave me hope.

The walking was not easy because the kids were so eager to be somewhere I had no idea of so much that they were running and l had to follow suit and shout to them to keep walking in the sidewalk since we were using the busy road.

They were so happy to be out finally after spent most of their time inside the gate and at school. So I was suffering the consequences.

After walking for a kilometer we finally arrived were they were speeding off to – the park.

“Mainini we are going inside there. Its so exciting you won’t regret it. There is a pool there and some swings” said the elder niece.

“What? Have you ever been here before?” I asked surprised.
“Yes mainini used to take us here” the younger one said.

“No let’s go home first. We will get lost” I told them
“We will not get lost. We know how to get home from here” she said.

“How far are we from home” I asked
“Not far . let’s get inside” she said that running towards the gate and her sister was crying and ask her to wait for her.

As much as I was opposed to the idea, I followed them because they were the navigators that was supposed to take my clueless body back home dead or alive.

So the day eventually turned to be the kid’s day out. That was not bad since they were so excited about that.
We finally arrived home with me carrying another kid. Did I mentioned that it was supper hot?.

My sister was so worried and I explained to her that we were at the park. I left the walking part. I don’t know if I forgotten to tell her or I didn’t want her to know that I had walked the kids such distance in such hot weather.

Since my first day at the mall was ruined, I organised for another day. I wasn’t gonna tell anyone where I was going. I didn’t want any journey crashers.

So my uncle had told me some safety tips: Always tell someone where you’re going.
If you’re lost just tell the driver you’re going to 108. Ask the driver to drop you off at Mzoli (a famous place in Gugulethu). He actually drove us there to show me. It was a walking distance from where we stay. Approximately 300 to 400m from home.

When we went there I saw that it was a small but funny place. People were doing barbecues and drinking. Even some tourists you could see them there. So it is a famous place in Capetown.

So since now I wanted to go to the mall, that piece of information was going to work. I could now tell the driver to drop me at Mzoli and finish the journey on foot. Better that way.

Well I explored the mall. It was exciting. I even grabbed a burger at MacDonald’s as my niece had once suggested (see chapter 5). It was yummy. That day I was happy because I wasn’t going to walk a 3 km distance on foot.

I met my sister when I was walking from Mzoli that’s when I told her the truth that I didn’t know the name of our bus stop. She bursted with laughter. She couldn’t imagine that I could not ask for our bus stop.

Welcome to Capetown.


Once more I am very grateful to Pauline for choosing to tell her story on here! Eager to find out more about her experiences? Keep an eye out for more in the future๐Ÿ‘

I am currently actively recruiting potential Trustees for Friends of Pakati as we are set to move towards a more formal footing. I have had 2 highly promising replies so far (more details later) and have asked others to see if they are interested. I think at this early stage, we dont need too many, either 3 or 5. I will naturally be one of the Trustees myself. An odd number is best for when issues need voting on.

The booklets for the Form 4 students at Pakati and Chanetsa Secondary schools are now being prepared, as it appears Vari at VaTonatsa Foundation, our partners in this venture, has now acquired all the relevant subject materials to proceed. All being well, delivery will be next weekend. A full report encompassing VaTonatsa’s review, along with delivery to the schools and comments from stakeholders and supporters, will be published soon after the delivery is complete.

Friends of Pakati – 6 month review

Greetings to our friends, followers, admirers, supporters, sponsors and donors of all kinds. As we are almost at the end of June 2020, I think it is a good time to review our activities and plans, especially as, like so many others across the world, they have had to change somewhat.

Firstly though, one thing that has not changed, is the vision set out at the beginning of 2020 – see which develops further from our original purpose seen here – to get some IT equipment out to both Pakati schools – successsfully carried out in September 2019. Below are some of the highlights of each month this year so far.


Our first post of 2020 – highlighted some of the problems being faced by Pakati schools that have changed little in 30 years.

One of the things I started doing in an attempt to raise much-needed funds for Friends of Pakati is to lose weight. I did get some donations, but I have promises of more, including one of ยฃ50 when I pass 2 stones lost, and one of ยฃ1 for every 1lb when the measuring ends, both by work colleagues. Originally it was to be June 1st, but will continue until October 1st now. Started off at 113.4kg/17st 9lbs….made it down so far to 100.5kg/15st 11.5lbs in 22 weeks.


Early in February I had confirmation from the Stephenson Group from Leeds, who donated IT equipment last year, have more to donate for this year! Read about it here:

Sports – athletics in particular during this time of the year – are very important to Pakati. Last year’s donation of football shirts from Scunthorpe United for Primary students provided the setting for our most-viewed post so far – 886 views

We also covered items such as Trachoma prevention, AGM at Pakati Secondary, former Pakati teacher Debbie Chadbon preparing to fundraise for us in a 10km run, and Zonal sports for the Secondary. Little did we know what was to come…


We began March with more news on fundraising activities, sports news including some success for Pakati Secondary school – see – the Primary school AGM, and a trip round the Pakati area .

We also introduced new people with Pakati connections… and

Then Corona Virus/Covid 19 struck globally. Come mid-March we were already changing plans – and seeeing UK and Zimbabwe lockdowns.

Then we also saw the impact of the lockdowns on both Pakati schools and Mapanga Primary


As the lockdowns continue, Friends of Pakati still finds plenty to report on… including this post:

We helped celebrate Easter under lockdown and met some new people through their profiles, especially Pauline Machengo – more on her later – and Vari Mayez, founder of VaTonatsa Foundation, which also appears further along this post. Pauline’s story was in 3 parts, including this first one during her time at Pakati Primary and Vari’s profile can be seen here and learned of student life under lockdown courtesy of Mitchelle Karasa

We relived the sponsored walk from a year ago to raise funds, and had a few lockdown laughs..


…then in May we asked for some donations, and talk of a forthcoming joint project with the afore-mentioned VaTonatsa Foundation, and we had the opening chapters of a much longer story from Pauline Machengo mentioned here

That post generated a follow-up in which the collaboration with VaTonatsa was explained and confirmed in more detail in

We also received donations from companies and individuals, including from Roj Rahman of Mortz Property Services, Magdalene Lafontant of Nakai Skincare and Cosmetics, along with former Teacher at Pakati Secondary, Debbie Chadbon.


This month has been characterised by two main themes – Pauline Machengo’s ongoing tale of her journey to and subsequent arrival in Cape Town, South Africa (most recent chapters seen here) and the collaboration with VaTonatsa to provide support to exam year students at what has developed into 5 schools – Pakati Primary and Secondary, Mapanga Primary, and the recent addition of Chanetsa Primary and Secondary schools.

The material produced is in the form of a booklet for the students to use as additional learning and revision, across all subjects. The Primary booklets were completed and…. have been distributed to the students at the 3 chosen Primary schools – Pakati, Chanetsa and Mapanga.

What do the schools think.about the booklets? Here is a comment from one of them: “

On behalf Mapanga Primary School Stakeholders, I would like to express my sincere gratitude for your kind gesture towards our Grade 7 Learners. The study packs are an answered prayer to our learners who had no study material to see them through the Covid-19 lockdown. Friends of Pakati, VaTonatsa Foundation, Councillor Maliki and all other contributors, we really appreciate your time, financial resources and commitment to make sure the booklet is compiled and distributed to the beneficiaries. As Mapanga Primary we assure you that we shall play our part in making sure the booklets are effectively used and maintained.
Thank you.”

With the Primary school booklets out of the way, completion of the joint initiative will be soon, as the Secondary material is now being produced. What next for Friends of Pakati? There is now a move to put it on a more formal footing, as I search for potential trustees to set it up as a charitable trust. This is the first step towards gaining status as a registered charity in the future. Once the process is well under way here in the UK, we will look to have a similar arrangement in Zimbabwe.

Also, as reported in a previous blog, schools in Zimbabwe are set to re-open gradually in the coming weeks, so we hope to report in depth on that from both Pakati schools, including the preparations being made by the Heads and staff. Hoping to see the return of normal life at the schools, under safe circumstances for all concerned. Reports and pictures to illustrate the stories will no doubt come our way. We will have to wait and see what happens about sports this year, as the main focus will be on exam students to begin with.

Many thanks to those who actively support and contribute to this blog, in particular my thanks go to Mr Mugove Chifaka and Mr Ambrose Mahachi, Heads of the two Pakati schools, their staff/colleagues, Mr Bothwell Riside, Lorraine Mapuranga and family, Councillor Israel Maliki, Debbie Chadbon, all who have sent in their profiles and photos, Pauline Machengo for her stories, Vari Mayez and all concerned with VaTonatsa Foundation, plus Mrs Maenzanise, Mr Kadzimu and Mr Mawedze, Heads of the 3 other participating schools in the recent joint initiative. Also, a huge ‘Thank You’ to all who give in cash or in kind including those seen here or support with spreading the word of Friends of Pakati๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

Delivery of the Primary booklets!

Thursday 18th June.

Today there has been an exchange of messages between Vari Mayez of our collaboration colleagues, VaTonatsa Foundation, the Heads of the Secondary schools at Pakati and Chanetsa, Councillor Israel Maliki of Ward 14 in Murewa District, and with myself.

The latest news is that we are struggling to get suitable material for some of the O Level (GCSE) sublects, so it has been decided to split the Secondary booklets into Volumes 1 & 2, in order to get something to those learners as soon as possible. As we source the remaining subject material then the 2nd volume will be produced. This may change however if we can get it all together in time.

Friday 19th June

Below is a message from Vari following discussions by phone between us over two days:

“Good day Chris.

I am happy to confirm that our plans to visit the three Primary schools are set.

Our Itinerary is as below:

After consultation with all stakeholders We can now confirm the following:

1-We will be coming on Sunday 21 June and we pick Mr Maliki and proceed to the 3 schools :
โ–ถ๏ธFirst stop is Pakati (ETA is 930am)
โ–ถ๏ธSecond stop is Chanetsa (ETA is 1100)
โ–ถ๏ธ Last stop is Mapanga ETA is 1300
Then we conclude the trip.

In terms of representation I will be going plus Celia I once shared her in that picture if you recall.
My aunt is still here in Harare for treatment so her Deputy will receive for Mapanga.

Will share photos – am currently swamped!”

Saturday 20th June.

There are protocols to follow when things are donated, and as Friends of Pakati followed those protocols last year, it is courtesy we follow them again. Below is the letter produced by VaTonatsa Foundation to request acceptance on behalf of Pakati Primary: one was also produced for Chanetsa and Mapanga Primaries.

Sunday 21st June.

Vari Mayez on her way to Pakati Primary for the first delivery!

Delivery Day for the Primary schools! First stop – Pakati Primary…

In the pictures are Mr Mahachi, Headteacher, as well as Mr Chakanyuka (teacher) on his own, seated. Vari Mayez and Councillor Maliki are seen handing over booklets to some staff and students at Pakati Primary school.

This from Mr Mahachi: “…We wish to thank Friends of Pakati and the VaTonatsa Foundation for their consideration, especially during this time of the covid induced lockdown. They have truly shown they are our all weather friends. They have dedicated their time and resources to our cause. We shall be forever greatful. Their assistance will go a long way in mitigating against the effects of the lockdown to our 2020 candidates. We hope thee students will work hard to revise and read the study pack. We had opened a WhatsApp group to share ideas and give the grade 7 learners some homework during the lockdown but we realised just around half of the 78 candidates had access to smart phones and of that half only less than 10 learners were affording the mobile data. What it means is that just less than 10 learners were being assisted by the WhatsApp group. The intervention of the study pack makes information and learning material be accessible to all candidates. On behalf of Pakati Primary learners, staff and parents we are greatly thankful to this gesture, especially for those who masterminded the initiative and took their time to make sure that the idea materialised.”

Next, on to Chanetsa Primary…

Mr Kadzimu sent this message to Friends of Pakati and Vatonatsa Foundation – “…..the books arrived, about 70 of them. God bless you for your generosity this will go a long way in improving our passrate.”

Councillor Maliki can be seen along with Chanetsa Head Mr Kadzimu and Vari Mayez, plus Celia also of VaTonatsa, helping to distribute some melons as a snack.

Finally, to Mapanga Primary.

In the pictures can be seen Mr Vhuso (Deputy Head at Mapanga – yellow t-shirt) receiving the booklets from Vari Mayez. Also Headgirl Tanith Chatambudza is seen on her own with a booklet.

Headteacher Mrs Maenzanise sent us this message: “…I’m just overwhelmed by the noble gesture”.

All in all, it looks like a great day at all 3 schools! Sadly I was not able to be there to witness the handovers, but I am delighted that Vari and Councillor Maliki have visited the schools and overseen the donations. Thank you!๐Ÿ‘

Primary booklets are ready!

Further to our earlier posts and we have more to report. First up – picture and comments from Vari Mayez of VaTonatsa Foundation:

“This photo (above) is from Lisa, the lady doing our binding at Lonoc projects in Harare. Production ongoing but seems to be taking longer than anticipated due to some technical issues. We anticipate the binding will be completed for the Primary school booklets very soon.”

The quote above was from earlier today (Tuesday 16th June), the pictures below are from later this afternoon.

Currently, as the Primary school papers are now complete, we are waiting for confirmation that the materials for the Secondary school booklets have all been delivered to VaTonatsa, so that the final product can be ready soon. Once we have all the booklets for all 5 schools – Pakati Primary and Secondary, Mapanga Primary, plus Chanetsa Primary and Secondary – then VaTonatsa will take them for the SDC’s to distribute to their students.

Vari further writes:
“I think that when they are distributed a list is made, and each student signs to acknowledge receipt then when they clear at end of year they return. I am thinking if we manage to get more donations or change we can donate exercise books so they work separately and not inside the booklets!”

Here are some of the messages exhanged between the Author and Vari during this afternoon:

[16/06, 14:35] Vari Mayez: ….So you will need more pics, will send some later today as I pass through to collect the finished ones
[16/06, 14:36] 610909: yes please if you can that would be great๐Ÿ‘
[16/06, 14:37] 610909: how much is left to come from the Secondaries?
[16/06, 14:38] Vari Mayez: Mr Chifaka sent me one more so I need him to confirm my response, we were chatting just now
[16/06, 16:35] Vari Mayez: Am glad you like it, am looking for boxes to pack them well
[16/06, 16:35] Vari Mayez: Then will share
[16/06, 16:37] 610909: ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘thank you. am putting the blog together now, i can wait a while for the pics of boxed up packs
[16/06, 17:01] Vari Mayez: Awesome
[16/06, 17:03] 610909: you and your colleagues have done an awesome job ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘
[16/06, 17:04] Vari Mayez: Thank you
[16/06, 17:05] 610909: You are most welcome. Please pass my thanks on behalf of Friends of Pakati and all who are associated with us.

Any further donations can be made either via our PayPal account – see the links at the side and foot of this blog – or at

We are looking forward to the completion of the Secondary school material, then final delivery to the schools, and to the students. More on this as I get confirmation and pictures.

Outside Zim Borders – Chapters 6 and 7

Pauline arrives in Cape Town! The start of her South African adventures are described here in these next 2 chapters. Enjoy…



Edited by Chris Walker


In Bloemfontein the temperature dropped to 3ยฐC. It was breezy outside and that was our recess station. Many people including me didn’t get off the bus because of the cold temperature. I saw Tinashe the nervous guy was now clinging to a baby towel which I assumed that he was given by the woman who was sitting not far from him. I was wearing socks and high cuts tennis shoes but I couldn’t feel my feet because of the cold. I felt pity for Tinashe who was only wearing some pushes (plimsolls). People had now taken their blankets from the shelves. Uncle covered me with another blanket. I had heard my sister complaining about winter in Cape Town. I wasn’t gonna survive this cold weather. This was going to kill me.

We arrived in Worcester at 7am. Uncle got off the bus because he stays in Worcester, which is a vineyard full of grapes, and uncle said he was a guard at one of the farms. No wonder why he was so well built.

We left Worcester for Paarl. We were blessed with nice views of the wine lands. When uncle left I was so hurt. I felt like a part of me had been ripped off. I was already missing him. Up to now I don’t understand why I felt so empty.

Tinashe had moved to sit with me because he was using my phone to communicate with his sister in Cape Town.
“We are now approaching the famous tunnel in South Africa. The Huguenot Tunnel.” He said that looking so excited.
“Really, have you seen it before?” I asked smiling at him.
“No. My sister always talked about it and I read about it too. Its so huge and long” he explained to me.
“Were you in school?” I asked curiously.
” hahha, l left school a while ago. I was now a rank Marshal. You know those kombies (taxis) to Mt Pleasant? ” I nodded.
“Yeah, that’s the kombies I was working with. I was a hwindi (taxi rank conductor)” he smiled revealing his perfect teeth. Gosh only a toothbrush would make this smile a killer.

By now we were driving through mountainous area. The road was constructed in mountains. It was so narrow and steep. We could see a nice vineyard from below us. The bus was moving slowly and the driver was doing a great job maneuvering those scary roads. I hate heights. I was so anxious.

From where we were we could see the tunnel just below us. So as the bus descended from the mountains that’s when you enter the tunnel. So dangerous but I was reading the rules. 90 km/h.

“See that mountain there. That pass?” Tinashe said that pointing to one of the mountains near the tunnel. I said yes and he said its called Du Toitskloof Pass.

“Can you imagine that they actually spent R125.000.000 constructing that pass.” He said.
“What? That’s a lot of money for such a pass” I said that looking through the window in order to see the pass clearly.

“Yeah its 48 km long. It took them four solid years to complete it”. He informed me.

” wow. I guess they employed thousands of workers ” I said.
“Come to think of it, only 500 Italian prisoners built that pass.”

“What? When was that?” I asked really shocked.
” It was built from 1884 to 1888.You know this Huguenot tunnel drastically reduces the distance from the old pass by 11 km. This is a short cut”

Well I was amazed by his knowledge. He must be a genius. By that time we were now in the tunnel. Huguenot Tunnel is 3.9 km long. Its a two way. Its clearance is 5m and you can drive at 90 km/h.
Such a distance in a tunnel. One can be so anxious.

After spending 4 minutes in the tunnel we finally saw the light lol. I remembered that saying ‘ there is light at the end of the tunnel’. I smiled to myself thinking that the person who came up with that saying must have had come across this Huguenot Tunnel.

We reached Paarl and some people got off the bus. The assistant announced that we will stop in Cape Town first and then proceed to Bellville. My sister told me that I should get off in Bellville. They will be waiting for me there.

Cape Town is so well built. I could see some nice and tall buildings but I didn’t see much since there was a fog.

“Look at this tall building. I’m telling you I will come and take pictures here” said Tinashe pointing to one of the biggest buildings written Civic Centre.

“Haha you should come with me”
” where are you going to be staying? ” he asked.
“Montana, I don’t know I will tell you” I said that.
“So next week we can go to the beach right? I want many photos”

“Ummm I can’t promise but we will hang out soon” l said that sending my friend a message telling him that I had arrived in Cape Town.

He was calling me throughout my journey. He stayed also in Cape Town so he promised to pick me up in Bellville.
I’m at the airport. Not far from Bellville. I will be there soon he texted back.

So from Cape Town we used Voortrekker Road. I was reading the names. I remember passing Maitland, Parow then Bellville. Finally I was on my way to the part of Cape Town where I would stay.


written by Pauline Machengo

Edited by Chris Walker


“This is Cape Town international airport. Maybe next time you might want to fly back home lol” That was my friend Kudzai who was showing me the airport as we drove by on Robert Subukwe Road on our way to Montana.

“Oh yeah I just saw the plane landing. I will come one day to see this” I said that feeling so excited. I opened the window so that I could have a nice view.

In Zimbabwe the airport is in Harare and I came from a small town outside Harare. I had never been at the airport before or see an aeroplane landing. The only time I saw a plane a little bit closer is when I was in Waterfalls (suburb of Harare) at my brother’s place.

“And the Kombies they look the same” I remarked.

“Hahaha here they’re called taxis not kombies” that was my sister. She had come to pick me up in Bellville so we were now driving to her house in Kudzai’s car.

“Yeah the taxis looks all the same. I once thought that it belongs to one person. My brother laughed at me when I said the taxi owner must be filthy rich with all thousands of taxis” I laughed hard. I thought that too but luckily I didn’t say it out.

In Zimbabwe a taxi owner can put the same symbol or same words on their taxis. For example in Macheke we once had a Legacy 1, Legacy 2&3.

So in South Africa all the taxis have a flag drawn just below the passenger window spreading towards the door.

We arrived home and I was so excited to meet my nieces. The first born was in school by that time. I was so tired. I had a bus leg lol. Three day journey in a bus was so tiresome. I took a long bath and a rest. I was awakened when my elder niece came back from school. She actually cried lol. She was so overwhelmed.

The following day Kudzai came to see me. We were sitting in his car at our gate when my cousin sister popped in to inform me that there was a vacancy at her work place in Brackenfell. She is a tailor. They were having a lot of orders from their clients so they were hiring.

” You’re lucky, just after two days of your arrival you’re now employed. Many people spent two to three months without jobs” Kudzai said that adjusting his car seat.

“But I’m still tired and its raining heavy I wonder if I will be fit to go to work tomorrow” I said that whilst massaging my legs.

“You better be fit and go because jobs are no longer easy to find here. So do you have transport money? I will give you R150 for a start I don’t have much money now” said Kudzai.

He opened the glove box and took R200 and gave me. “That’s all I have for now. I bought fuel, a full tank on my way here.

” Thanks so much I’m really grateful” l said that putting the money in my pocket.

We bade our farewells and I went back inside to rest. Tomorrow I was starting a new job.

The song it ain’t me from Selena Gomez woke me up. My uncle had set that song as his alarm tone. I was thankful for that. I checked the time it was 5am. I was leaving for work at 6:20. I prepared and exactly 6:20 my cousin was at my house. We left for the bus stop another experience started there.

In the morning the taxis collect people from the road to the taxi rank where people will be standing in the queue respectively waiting for their taxis.

Unlike in Zimbabwe, South Africa is organised when it comes to taxis. No pressurizing each other. Everyone has to join the queue. We got into a taxi to Bellville and we took another taxi from Bellville to Brackenfell. We arrived at our pick up point at 7:39. My cousin said her boss will come and pick up with her car to her house.

Whilst we were waiting for our transport I discovered that we were at a fire point where people go and wait for the whites to come and get them if they want workers. I saw cleaners, gardeners and builders all waiting impatiently to be picked.

“So does all these people get to be picked up or?” I asked my cousin.
“No. Not everyone, some will go back home without being picked up. It’s kinda lucky game. Some get employed permanently” she explained to me.

“Our transport will be here anytime. Let me tell you my boss has a big cat at her house and some tortoises so please don’t make fun remarks about them” she warned me.
“What? Some tortoises? You mean she has tortoise as a pet?” I was surprised. In Zimbabwe or as Africans keeping a tortoise is kinda taboo. People could black paint you as a witch. Well I promised her that I won’t make nasty comments. I was going to keep my opinions to myself.

As we were waiting, we were joined by another two coloureds ladies whom my cousin works with. I was surprised to see them smoking. I made that fun look and my cousin just laughed at me and telling those ladies that I’m surprised. See in Zimbabwe if you’re a lady and you smoke it simply means you’re considered a prostitute. Cigarettes were only meant for men not women.

Our transport came and we took off to our working place….

There is a lot more still for Pauline to tell us about in this remarkable story….I am very intrigued by what is to come in the next few chapters.

Also to come on this blog soon is more about our collaboration with VaTonatsa Foundation, as they prepare the Secondary school matetial for the students at Pakati and Chanetsa. The coming re-opening of schools in Zimbabwe will mean new stories and pictures will also come, showing the new reality of life at both Pakati schools for students and staff alike.