HomeLocal NewsRural school gets new lease of life

Rural school gets new lease of life

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Twenty years ago, he was a simple, ordinary white teacher at a remote school in rural Nkayi, Matabeleland North Province.

Like any other rural dweller, Tim Cole relied on boreholes for water and used firewood to prepare meals at the school.

He had come to the school as an expatriate teacher under the UK Volunteer Services Office programme.

Cole is now working as the deputy ambassador at the British Embassy and shared his experiences with schoolchildren and villagers at Neuso Secondary School this week in Sanyati, Mashonaland West Province.

He says the tribulations he encountered while teaching in Nkayi did not break his stride, but were like a stepping stone that elevated him to a higher station in life, which has enabled him to look back and help other disadvantaged schools in the country’s rural outposts.

From his vanatage point at the British Embassy in Harare, he is playing an influential role in leading the diplomatic mission to provide funds for the installation of a piped water project at the school.

He says two decades ago, the school at which he worked in Nkayi was very dry, just like Neuso in Sanyati. Back then, the school — typical of many a rural school — was crying out for development.

“There was no science lab at the school. I spent two years at the school and I used to live in a small hut and that’s where I used to sleep,” he recalls.
“I learnt a lot about Zimbabweans. I learnt that they are patient, resilient and very peaceful.”

He says his experience was so rich that children can now learn that anything is possible in life.

“I hope that this sends a message to you that I was a teacher 20 years ago and today I am deputy ambassador,” he says.

The piped water project, valued at £15 000, was initiated by the British Embassy working in partnership with Rio Tinto Foundation, which has been assisting the Sanyati community.

The British Embassy says the project, which is a response to the critical shortage of water at the schools and the adjacent community, will benefit more than 5 000 people.

“The initial plan was to drill boreholes in the area but because the area is dry, no other sources of underground water could be found, (so) the only alternative was to develop and upgrade the existing hand pump borehole into a piped water system plus a 5 000-litre water tank,” the embassy said.

The humanitarian arm through UK’s Department of International Development is funding various developmental projects through implementing partners, mainly projects in water and sanitation in Zimbabwe.

The UK department has committed £2 million towards water and sanitation development in rural Zimbabwe.

Working through non-governmental organisations, these funds will build more than 400 household and community latrines in schools and clinics.

It is targeting over 56 000 beneficiaries countrywide. More than 400 new/rehabilitated boreholes will improve access and supply of safe water for drinking and irrigation.

In 2009, more than £4 million was provided to Unicef.

This helped health and sanitation emergencies to promote improved hygiene practices and to rehabilitate water and sanitation systems in small towns.

The villagers and students of Neuso Secondary school feel overwhelmed by these efforts to make the precious liquid available to them Neuso Secondary School headmaster Mr Elias Bonde says they are grateful for this first step that has been taken, and hopes the other challenges afflicting the community would also be attended to.

“We had been facing critical problems for over a year now. We are grateful to the British Embassy for this piped water project at the school. They assisted in the construction of the science lab and the ‘A’ level block,” said Bonde. He hoped Cole would also assist, resources permitting, in bringing a facelift to the school structures.

“We would like to improve the labolatory. We need funds to repair one of the classroom blocks whose roof was blown away sometime in 2007. We need to purchase the essentials for the block to have a roof.”

The embassy also donated books for most subjects for both the secondary and primary school.

Teachers and students say they are grateful as this is a chance for them to really study hard as they now have the requisite resources. In the past, students used to share textbooks on a ratio of 1:20.

“We are happy that they have also donated books in addition to the piped water project. The books will help us in our studies. They have really done a good thing for us,” said a Form Six pupil at the school.

A Form Three student said the donation of the books would help a lot as they would now be able to study better without having to share meagre resources.

“We are happy and we will work very hard. They have done their part in providing us with the foundation. It is now left to us to do our best so that we come out with better grades and go far,” she said.

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