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Chitsenga: A man with his community at heart


The craggy Eastern Highlands of Nyanga, famed for their legendary flora and fauna, are also outstanding for being the source of many rivers and streams, that serpentine in all directions, their waters gleaming in the sun.

It is from there that many rivers issued out in ancient times, flowing to the west and east past flat valleys and rugged terrain and, of course, over gleaming stones that eventually got polished smooth by running water. The rains and water gave life to many, hence the lush greenery associated with the geomorphologic splendour that Nyanga is.

Banana groves, luxuriant water reeds, water cabbages, lilies and thickets of reverie vegetation accompany the rivers until they empty their contents into major rivers and indeed into the seas, but as we go higher and deeper to the northern direction of this area, things are different.

Up the hills and down the valleys of Nyanga North lies the poverty-stricken village community of Sabvure. Unlike the majestic Kaerezi River which meanders through the mountainous area on its way to neighbouring Mozambique, Sabvure boasts nothing as the infrastructure and even the people show signs of a dejected area which is in serious need of assistance in every aspect.

The long, winding gravel road which branches from the tarred road to Nyamaropa leads to Sabvure Primary School, a deteriorating learning institution which accommodates scores of pupils from surrounding villages.

However, the primary school, which has been built over five decades, despite its shambolic state, has produced a lot of graduates.

Some even went on to be doctors, lawyers or any other high-profile paying jobs, but none of the students ever thought of giving back to the school for the benefit of the current generation of pupils, except one man: Henry Chitsenga.

Chitsenga, a product of Sabvure Primary School and a teacher by profession, is one such man who, despite being a teacher, went to the United Kingdom to hunt for money to renovate the dilapidated school.

When he shared this idea with his friends and fellow villagers, it seemed to be a joke and many thought they were mere hallucinations, while others said they were the usual tales of a departing man who would never return.

But in his mind, Chitsenga knew what he was doing, he knew his journey to the UK was to source for money to renovate collapsing blocks, build new ones, drill a borehole and construct a big reservoir for the benefit of the pupils.

Fortunately, he got a job as a teacher at an independent school called St Edward’s Oxford in the UK.

Chitsenga approached two fellow teachers Lewis Folkiner and Richard Murray and told
them his idea of raising funds to renovate his former primary school.

The three, however, shared the idea with students from the independent school and planned on how they could raise money to help other pupils in need in Zimbabwe.

In a bid to raise the much-needed money, the students arranged a 24-hour marathon.
The marathon was held and all the students participated with one heart.

During the marathon, some students were injured while others fainted, but they soldiered on until they reached the finishing line.

However, the money was insufficient and the students again went on a 24-hour soccer competition as a way to raise more funds for Sabvure Primary School.

The matches were played with some students getting injured while others collapsed, but this time their dream came true.

The students endured such intense pain with one heart of helping their fellow students in a country they had never set their feet on, pupils in an underdeveloped area they had never heard of and students with a different colour from them.

With more than US$30 000 in his pocket, Chitsenga wiped off the mind of converting the money to his own use, but sent it to the primary school leadership to build new blocks, buy furniture for the two blocks to drill a borehole and to construct a reservoir.

The school authorities were obedient to his word and did so with perfection.

Speaking at the official opening of the new blocks recently, Nyanga North Member of Parliament Douglas Mwonzora hailed Chitsenga for his good heart.

“I thank Mr Henry Chitsenga for his great love towards his community and I pray for others to emulate such kind of good work,” he said.
During the official opening, Chitsenga was in the company of his two British friends Folkner and Murray.

In his speech, Murray narrated how Chitsenga worked to raise the funds and how the students participated in a bid to raise money from their parents and well-wishers.

“When Chitsenga approached us, our hearts became heavy and together with the more than 600 students we agreed to do something about it.

“The students, however, thought of the 24-hour marathon which became successful.

“During the marathon, some student were snoring while running.

“The students then suggested the 24-hour soccer match competition which was also successful.

“Some students collapsed, others slept while others got injured, but because of their fellow pupils in Zimbabwe they endured the pain.

“My appeal is to the pupils and the community that each and every time they see these structures, there are pupils who fought for them,” he said.

Speaking at the same occasion, Chitsenga said it was his dream that one day he would do such a worthy thing to his own community.

“I have been dreaming of doing something good for my community especially to renovate this school and I am glad it has happened,” he said.

Chitsenga was born in Nyanga, in 1966 in a family of seven children. He was educated at Sabvure Primary School, Kute and Chitakatira High School.
He studied Mathematics and Computer Programming in Cuba.

A staunch member of Guta RaJehova Church, Chitsenga is a man whose life is grounded in the Christian principle of service to others, particularly those who are most vulnerable in society. His religious beliefs and his upbringing engendered in him a compassionate outlook on those he viewed as underserved groups in society.

He took up the mantle of a life of selfless service at a young age. In 1982, while still in high school (in Form 2/Year 9/9th Grade), Chitsenga formed a tutorial group and called it Success In Students’ Academic Work (SISAW). Through this group, he assisted fellow students in Mathematics, sacrificing both free time and weekends to teach his peers.

He also recognised that education was the way out of a cycle of poverty for improvement of these underserved communities. To this end, he formed MWANA Trust-Zimbabwe in 2006 in order to assist orphans in Zimbabwe and to provide educational resources for them in rural schools in Manicaland Province.

He, with the assistance of Field House students at St Edward’s Oxford, raised funds to build and furnish a two-classroom block and drill a borehole at Sabvure Primary School.

Chitsenga also raised money through the Africa Children’s Fund, where he is on the board of trustees, to build a kitchen at Mt Dangare Primary School. The school is located in Mutare and more than 50% of its students are orphans. He managed to procure and ship 15 computers to the school.

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