Old students associations are now playing a very crucial role in delivering education in the country. They are filling a gap that has been created by inadequate funding from the central government particularly in the last decade.
Most mission schools and former group A schools infrastructure and academic standards have slowly been going down over the years. Desks and chairs are in short supply, libraries are antiquated, dormitories are in a shambles, swimming pools and tennis courts are overgrown with weeds.
The sad conditions have given rise to the proliferation of private schools and private lessons conducted in backyards in the high density suburbs and rural in communities. Most parents now shun sending their children to former iconic mission schools.
Former students at Kutama College, Gokomere High and St Ignatius have in the past led the way in restoring their schools’ battered image and status back to the pedestal through funding.
These mission schools have produced a fair share of academics, commerce and industry leaders and renowned sportspersons over the last century.
The old students associations are playing a significant role to complement efforts by school development associations made up of parents in bringing back quality education.
The former students are donating library books, repairing broken down buildings, maintaining sporting facilities and purchasing school buses.
Funding education has become a community issue in the face of dwindling government funding over the years as the economy deteriorated. Parents were not spared from the ravages of the economic malaise and could not pay more to schools, thus further crippling service delivery.
The situation is different at private schools which continue to maintain their standards over the years. The schools have influential benefactors in industry and commerce and the parents contribute significant funds to the schools as levies.
Former students from mission schools and other schools attended by middle class and lower class families have since realised that they should play a part in the revival of these schools’ fortunes.
These schools played an indispensable role in their development and they are simply paying back.
Meanwhile, a new kid on the block has emerged.
Former Mount Selinda and Chikore Missions students have awakened from the slumber to revive the century old institutions that churned them.
The institutions were established by American Board of Mission (ABM) now United Church of Christ Zimbabwe (UCCZ) in 1893 and 1895.
Within the last century of their existence the institutions have produced world renowned academics among them Masipula Sithole, Ndabaningi Sithole and Oxford University lecturer Blessing Miles Tendi.
Mount Selinda Mission now stands forlornly on the edges of the great equatorial Chirinda forest stubbornly showing its 118 years of existence. The worn out and collapsing buildings stoically calling for attention from thousands of its alumni who passed through its doors over the last century.
Mbada Holdings head of audit Bonnie Dhliwayo who heads the communications for the old students under the banner “Friends of Chikore and Mount Selinda Missions” (FOMA) said the initiative was the first in a series of trying to revive the century old institutions.
“We would like to help facilitate the UCCZ mission to maintain high standards of infrastructure and excellence in service provision to the community,” Dhliwayo said.
Dhliwayo added that FOMA was interested in paying back to the institutions that have given much to Zimbabwe in terms of leadership yet they are on the brink of extinction.
“The formation of FOMA is an endeavour to pay back to the schools that have helped mould many students to the lofty positions they now hold in the community. It is imperative upon this generation to plough back and revive these institutions to their former iconic pedestals,” Dhliwayo added.
FOMA interim executive is headed by University of Zimbabwe academic Allan Tsapayi, Dhliwayo, renowned academic Pindai Sithole, Zimsec human resources director Joyman Thabete, Selby Nera and Reverend Decent Mugari.
Old students associations now seem to be the way to revive education in the country for the poor communities.