One of Zimbabwe’s oldest educational institutions, Waddilove Mission is still thriving, churning out some of the best academic results in the country, more than 100 years after its establishment.
The institution is credited with producing such academic and political luminaries like the late Vice President Joshua Nkomo, renowned lawyer the late Advocate Pearson Nherera, astute lawyer and politician, the late Eddison Zvobgo, Zimbabwe’s first black High Court Chief Justice Enock Dumbutshena, legendary insurance broker Paul Mukondo and politicians Hebert Ushewokunze, Josiah Chinamano, Sydney Sekeramayi, and Hebert Murerwa, among others.
Not only has Waddilove Institute weathered the vagaries of time, including the monumental difficulties of the past decade, but the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe entity has gone a long way in providing the community around it with some of the best education and building the moral fibre that has held the community together, bound by the Christian faith.
In short, Waddilove, according to Presiding Bishop Amos Ndhlumbi, has fused itself with the community covering a large swath of communal settlement and commercial farms stretching from Marondera, Seke to Wedza.
The community relies on Waddilove as much as the school depends on it, a symbiosis that has developed so much a stranger will find it difficult to tell who really owns or runs the institution between the administrative authority comprising the principal of the institution, Reverend Chiwundura, the Headmaster of the high school, Tinashe Manhera and the primary school Headmaster Isaac Jari, and the local community leadership.
While some schools, including certain renowned church institutions around the country, have made headlines for doubling and even tripling school fees, at Waddilove, the local community can access some of the best education without paying a cent, they simply participate in the provision of their school’s material needs by providing their labour on the thriving school farm and other projects at the institution.
And that is not all. Physically challenged children have also found a home at Waddilove where the blind and others with various physical disabilities are taken in the same classes as their able-bodied counterparts.
Nherera who rose to become one of Zimbabwe’s best advocates received his education at Waddilove Institute.
Manhera who has been at the helm of the high school for the past five years says the institution has a total student population of over 1 500 and all of them, he said, are looked after in a way that they find Waddilove a “home away from home”.
“Our major strengths here are high quality education, moral grooming, high level discipline and of course an excellent diet and a healthy environment,” said soft-spoken headmaster Manhera.
“Even where students from various schools are meeting, Waddilove products stand out by their unique discipline and character.”
Waddilove boasts of some of the best academic results in Zimbabwe and has a consistent “A” Level pass rate of over 90%.
During the forgettable 2007-8 crisis, Waddilove would have been transformed into “a concentration camp” and closed down had it not been for forward planning by the school and church authorities.
When it became apparent 2008 was going to be a difficult year, the school made arrangements to stock huge quantities of maize and other foodstuffs and managed to pull through the difficult period without having to shut down like other schools did.
“We did not miss a single school calendar day that year,” the primary school head said. “Contigent plans were made in time and while we acknowledge having come across problems, the welfare of our children was not compromised and our education calendar went uninterrupted.”
But how did Waddilove Institute come to be? Whose idea was it, when and what was the community’s role in all this?
The roots of the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe-run school can be traced back to as early as 1891, when two Methodist ministers of religion, Owen Watkins and Isaac Shimmin arrived in the country to spread the gospel.
But as the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe’s Presiding Bishop, Ndhlumbi noted, there was a need for literacy for people to understand the Bible.
“The Methodist Church’s initial aim, like other denominations, was to convert the indigenous people to Christianity and then to Methodism. For the indigenous people to understand the Bible there was therefore need to introduce literacy schools, hence the establishment of schools,” he said.
In 1892 the Methodist Church brought in black evangelist teachers from the Cape Province of South Africa, as church workers. Among them was Modumedi Moleli, who later went to Chief Nenguwo’s area near Marondera with Shimmin.
He was to play a great role in the establishment of what is now called Waddilove Mission.
When Shimmin left Chief Nenguwo’s area with other church workers, the locals requested that Moleli should remain preaching and teaching in the area.
“By 1894 he had established himself at the village with a small congregation of faithful followers as the basis of his parish. Before long as many as a hundred children were attending Sunday school classes.
Starting with recitation of the Bible verses, Moleli’s teaching programme progressed to reading and writing,” according to the book, A Century of Methodism in Zimbabwe.
Despite being a darling in the community, Moleli was however killed by locals in 1896 after rescuing a white farmer, James White who had been injured during clashes between indigenous people and white settlers in the First Chimurenga war.
The tragedy temporarily put an end to activities at Nenguwo School, but after peace had returned Reverend John White decided to reestablish Nenguwo near the shrine of Moleli and thus fulfil his dream.
He began with six pupils, but he changed Nenguwo from an elementary primary school to a centre specialising in the training of church ministers and evangelists and later practical disciplines.
In 1915, Sir John Waddilove donated $1 500 towards infrastructural development at Nenguwo.
“A grateful Methodist Church then renamed the institution Waddilove, the identity by which the mission is still known today. To this day some buildings constructed at the time still bear silent testimony to his generosity.”
By 1927, the enrolment at the school had risen to 405 while the highest academic level was Standard Seven.
In 1966 an experimental scheme for teaching blind students side by side with their sighted counterparts was started, and it became such a success that some of them later went to the secondary school, which was opened in 1966.
One of them, Pearson Nherera, eventually did A-level and proceeded to the University of Zimbabwe where he distinguished himself in the Department of Law, before going to repeat the same remarkable feat at Cambridge University.
More than 100 years on, the institution is still alive and kicking, and still growing.
The principal, Rev Chiwundura says the school has embarked on an ambitious project to build more classroom blocks and staff quarters.
The headmaster Manhera has already started a project to replace cement floors with tiles in all classrooms and says by the end of this year Waddilove will be sporting fresh paint throughout the institution, a development that should breathe fresh life into this old school.
But the brightest picture that a visitor gets on arrival at Waddilove are the wide welcoming smiles that the students dish out as they greet you with the unquestionable respect that can only be a result of discipline.