THE need to eradicate the vicious cycle of poverty in the community of Hatcliffe Extension, which has seen most children facing a bleak future without any formal education, has driven Laytone Marisa (37) to pour his heart towards the community and build a trust school, which caters mainly for the underprivileged children in the area.
Report by Vimbai Marufu
Being an orphan himself, Marisa said he knows the challenges that orphans go through and Hatcliffe is one area that is ridden with child-headed families most of whom were affected by the 2005 Operation Murambatsvina demolition of illegal structures and cannot afford school fees.
“I am an orphan myself so I decided to give back to the community the little I have. I know the challenges the underprivileged children face and most parents here in Hatcliffe cannot afford to send their children to school,” said Marisa.
Marisa did community projects in South Africa where he taught life skills to underprivileged children in KwaZulu-Natal and Northern Cape.
When he came back home he realised that a lot of children were not going to school and in an effort to curb the problem, he established Success Academy Zimbabwe in 2009, which is situated in Hatcliffe Extension.
“I noted that a lot of vulnerable kids were lacking basic primary education. Therefore, I started with only a primary school, but introduced secondary education that same year,” said Marisa.
The academy has now a total of 896 children and offers both primary and secondary education on a hot session system, but the place has since become too small to accommodate all the children.
The school only comprises one old, weather-beaten structure that has seen better days gone by and can be mistaken for a house. Yet its purpose is defiantly noble and astute.
Huge cracks pepper the decrepit walls and the children endure dust when it is hot and dry and mud when it is raining.
Marisa gave the community of Hatcliffe hope for the future. Not only did he establish a school, he is also renting a place for some orphans to stay and caters for all their needs .
He is also paying tuition for three “A” Level students who excelled from Success Academy.
Success Academy Zimbabwe has developed into a fully-fledged trust with the school as the education arm of the trust under Success Development Trust of Zimbabwe. The trust also focuses on the development of the whole community.
In addition to all this, the trust is running a talent search programme for the community so that children `can identify their talents.
The community projects he runs have seen most members benefiting as they receive training on income-generating projects such as poultry, sewing and gardening.
“After realising that even when they leave school, these children still have nothing to do. So I decided to do a talent search programme. This will enable the children and members of the community to learn to be self-reliant,” added Marisa.
The academy relies on donations from well-wishers, organisations and individuals.
Marisa — as the headmaster and founder — contributes about three-quarters of the total expenditure that includes rentals, teachers’ allowances, and stationery, but at times the burden can be overwhelming for him.
Marisa is a family man with two children and also works at a printing company that also helps in the provision of incentives for the school.
The school has 10 teachers and about six volunteers who come now and again to teach art and motivate the children.
Volunteer teachers include Katherine Bartlet, Casey Gould and Christine Dollar and these have been of great assistance to the academy providing furniture, books and foodstuffs.
Success Academy has also received help from Rose Brent and the Commercial Farmers’ Union.
However, the academy is currently facing a myriad of challenges that include rentals for the premises, and ablution facilities to cater for all the students. The school also lacks basic amenities like furniture and this has seen some students sit on the floor during lessons.
Ablution facilities are in shambles as all students queue for their turn in a two-squat hole and makeshift blair toilets surrounded by a tattered black plastic sheet.
But with all these problems, Marisa says he will not look back since he has the community at heart and hopes that one day the Lord will ease his burden by providing all these requirements. His motivation is to put smiles on the faces of the Hatcliffe community.
“If your mind can conceive it and your heart can believe it, then you can achieve it.” Marisa said quoting legendary former boxer Muhammad Ali.
“This gives me hope and strength and keeps me going. With the community firmly behind me, I have always been delighted at the prospects of a new day as I mirror into the future hoping that one day a miracle awaiting somewhere would change the lives of these children.”