She sings and dances in a circle with her class of 36 pupils.
She looks very ecstatic as she plays with the little children, some as young as three years left in her care by their parents.
Despite her 73 years, she moves with the agility of a young woman.
Tambudzai Chipanda, popularly known as Gogo Chipanda, has worked as a voluntary community preschool teacher since independence in Dzivarasekwa Extension, a high density suburb in Harare.
“I vividly recall that I was born during the bitter years of the colonial era, just before the Second World War,” Gogo Chipanda said, showing her identity card to this reporter.
“I developed the passion for children way back when I was still a young woman. As young women, community mothers would give us their little children to look after as they went through their domestic chores.”
In the past — she recalled — young women in the villages around which she grew up used to cook in groups and she used to be the supervisor, a role which made her popular with her age mates.
“Because of the passion I had for children and the ability to teach them, I obtained a certificate as a preschool teacher back then at independence when the government was urging people to go back to school after the war,” Gogo Chipanda said.
She said she did Standard One — which is Grade Three today — where she simply learnt how to read and write. She added: “The first course I did was in First Aid, which saw me developing skills to help the little children as I taught them. I am a holder of a certificate in pre-school teaching, which I am proud of as I teach crèche here at Yemurai School.”
Gogo Chipanda said she was never employed by the government or anybody to do the job she loved, but had always volunteered, almost all her life.
She said the school authorities at Yemurai School authorised her to run a crèche at the school premises as she was doing a noble job for the community.
Gogo Chipanda said she worked as a voluntary teacher for the little children in the community left in her care by their parents who would be committed elsewhere.
“I am just a volunteer here. The parents of these children pay me in cash or in kind. Some bring second-hand clothes for me, some bring bathing and washing soap; others bring money while others bring some food parcels — not because I demand those things from them, but as a way of appreciating my job with their children,” she said.
She had a class of 36 pupils, but the number had been fluctuating of late as some children had been absent since the onset of winter. Chipanda said she was not good in English, but had mastered the basics, which she used in tutoring the children.
Meanwhile, two of her granddaughters, staying with her commended her for her big heart, shown by the way she spent time with little children in the community: “Very few people these days can do what Gogo Chipanda is doing. Imagine just volunteering to look after other people’s children, not worrying about payment,” said one of Gogo Chipanda’s granddaughters, Yvonne Kamukamu.
“Gogo Chipanda does very well with small children. Playing and teaching small children is like a hobby to her and she is never worried about money — which spells out her unconditional kindness,” she added.
She also said Gogo Chipanda got distressed if some children did not turn up for school as she had already developed a bond of friendship with them.
Yvonne said the children who came to Gogo Chipanda for their lessons had no toys and they would be just playing ordinarily and learning how to read and write some basic terms on the dusty ground outside their classroom.
Anastensia Rumhizha, a resident of Dzivarasekwa Extension, said Gogo Chipanda was very hardworking and patient as some of the children were still too young and even soiled their pants.
“This old lady is so hardworking, patient and so tolerant. How many people would choose to work for free looking after young children, some of whom are still soiling their pants? Gogo Chipanda is doing right that and just imagine, voluntarily,” Rumhizha said. She said Gogo Chipanda would take it upon herself to wash some children who would soil themselves at school.
However, Rumhizha said chidren at Gogo Chipanda’s crèche were bringing their own food as the old lady was not capacitated enough to provide foodstuffs for the little ones.
Authorities at Yemurai School commended the good job Gogo Chipanda was doing, but called on the community members and local leaders to rally behind the old lady’s noble cause and giver her support.