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Develop me: Education in a cattle kraal: A conversation with a NewsDay reader

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Following media reports about the Prime Minister’s visit to Maodzwa Primary School in rural Mashonaland Central where he came face to face with children attending lessons in a kraal, one NewsDay reader, Ms Jacobs, decided to engage me on a development conversation.

According to media reports pupils at Maodzwa Primary School alternate with cattle. During the day they conduct lessons in a cattle kraal before the cattle use it for the night.

One can only assumed that every morning, perhaps before or after singing Simudzai Mureza WeZimbabwe, they start by clearing the dung from the cattle kraal.

All this for the love of their sovereign country Zimbabwe and the faith they have in education.

The reports suggest that this has been happening for the past decade. Without desks and textbooks and only one teacher’s house, pupils are reported to be sitting on cow dung covered with grass, again raising health concerns.

Ten years is a long time. A lot of things have happened including a referendum, farm invasion which mutated into land reform, over eight elections and Morgan Tsvangirai became a Prime Minister, but development didn’t happen for Maodzwa Primary School in those 10 years.

Of course, one wonders why the school missed out on development when it lies right in the heart of Zanu PF’s support base.

While Jacobs agrees with me on the above, she feels it is time to take responsibility for their development as the government has proved to be a failure.

“In a case like this who is to blame and who should be driver of development? Can we solely blame the government as they are the duty-bearers as far as delivery of education is concerned? Can a government in a developing country like Zimbabwe afford to do everything for its people without the people themselves playing a part in their development?

“Can we blame the NGOs for not developing the school or for not pressuring the government to meet their responsibility? But then, as we all know, NGOs shouldn’t be there in the first place and their role is to complement the government’s efforts.

“Or can we blame the community for not being proactive enough to the extent of allowing their children to receive education in the stench of cow dung? Who is responsible for this rural community failing to make their own bricks and putting up a separate structure exclusively for the classroom rather than have their children sit on cow dung every day?

“That the government should do this and that for the people is an overplayed song which has proven to have lost meaning over the years. It seems their priority is to make sure they acquire luxury vehicles and comfy homes. Other communities develop because people contribute their time and money towards the development. This is not to exonerate the government from its responsibilities, but it has proven to be a failure.

“But our children need to learn. Should we sit and wait for a failed government to finally wake up and do the right thing or should we carry on because we believe our children need to have a good start? It is appalling that we go around boasting of an over 90% literacy, some of which is made from cattle kraal.

“It is sad that 31 years after independence there are still children learning in such difficult circumstances. Worse still that there are people who still wait for a government that has failed its people to build a school for them. Most of the schools that have contributed towards the over 90% literacy rate were not built by the government alone, but through participation and contribution of the communities. The school I went to was partly developed by the church, partly by the parents and I think it was eligible for the government grant, but it never happened.

“Is the government proud to be paying a teacher who teaches in a cattle kraal? Obviously the situation does not suggest that the community can afford to hire and pay teachers so the government is paying salaries for teachers teaching in such conditions.”

Before she closed her case, she posed an interesting question for further discussion: “What comes first in development — the conducive environment or the economic means?” For now I will leave this question for another day.

Mr Prime Minister, the pupils of Moadzwa’s hopes and faith in education need more than just bemoaning their sad situation — they need a proper classroom.

Maybe the sale of just one of your cars can build and furnish the school and they will forever remember you.

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