Mwenezi – the sorry state of rural education, pupils

Mwenezi rural school

DOZENS of schoolchildren are piled up in a classroom seated on the floor while their teacher writes notes on a makeshift blackboard made out of a broken wooden door and black slates.

Moses Matenga

Outside the makeshift classroom, children bring their various forms of lunch among them sweet cane (ipwa) and bottles of water as the nearest borehole is some 4km from the school.

Mwenezi rural school
Mwenezi rural school

A bell rings to signal break time at Rushangarume Primary School in Mwenezi and the pupils, looking exhausted, stream out of the classroom holding their torn books.

In this part of the country, uniforms are a luxury, most of the pupils are in pale, torn clothes, barefoot in the frosty weather and their faces are a signature of gnawing poverty.

Hopelessness is written all over their faces and their sorry story is in stark contrast to the estimated 94% literacy rate touted in Zanu PF’s election manifesto last year and which Zimbabwe prides herself with.

Rushangarume, like most rural schools, is dilapidated and its record does not resonate with Zimbabwe’s otherwise impeccable educational record as it reflects government’s failure on education.

Because they are deprived of education, children from poor communities around the country grow through an insecure and uncertain childhood to an adult life whose sole preoccupation may be to escape poverty.

Many young people from most communities near the borders of Zimbabwe have skipped the country to neighbouring South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique and elsewhere in search of something to survive on.

Some 34 years after independence, to say some schools in rural Zimbabwe are in a deplorable state is an understatement; the situation for children from these communities is hopeless.


The current plight of these children is emblematic of the challenges other fragile and development starved societies face with regard to funding education.

Without sufficient investment of resources to equip the schools, Mwenezi schoolchildren are at risk of losing their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire a basic education.

On a larger scale, their society will be starved of the human potential it needs to thrive in the long run. Unless government ropes in the international community to step up its investment in education there, and elsewhere in the countryside such as in Binga in the Zambezi Valley; Uzumba, Maramba, Pfungwe; part of Gokwe; Msampakaruma in Kariba; Chipinge and Chiredzi to name, but a few areas, the prospects are slim that the country will recover even with the change of administration or the end of the economic crisis currently prevailing.

These poor schools should be government and an international community priority.

Responding to this wretched state of affairs is, not surprisingly, extraordinarily difficult. Getting dedicated teachers into these schools requires that they are remunerated for this physically and emotionally taxing work.

Rushangarume deputy teacher-in-charge Savious Ncube says the major problem is virtually everything at the school, from furniture, shortage of classrooms, water and teachers’ accommodation.

The school has an enrollment of 400 plus pupils. The shortage of classrooms is dire.

“There is no furniture in our classrooms; it’s difficult for them to write and when it is examination time, we ask them to bring their own furniture from home which is quite a challenge,” Ncube said.

“They are supposed to buy their own books, but you know the problem is that no one has the money to buy books and it’s a crisis. We have agriculture as a practical subject, but we are being limited because of the water crisis. The pupils have to walk for more than 4km to fetch water for use while others even bring their own drinking water from home.”

Another serious challenge Ncube spoke about is the shortage of classrooms as the only block of five small classrooms accommodates Grades 1-7 with some in most cases being bundled into one big classroom, never mind their different grades.

“We have Grade Six and Seven in the same classroom, Grades Four and Five in another, Grades One and Early Childhood Development classes usually learn outdoors because they have no classrooms,” Ncube added.

Another makeshift classroom resembles a pigsty and crèche-going pupils now resort to using the football pitch while others learn under a tree.

The pupils are expected to pay $10 a term as school fees, but the parents hardly pay due to the economic meltdown in the country. This compromises the rural education of the pupils while government is conspicuous by its absence in assisting in the  development of schools in that part of the country.


School Development Association chairman Mark Hove said the parents did not have money to pay for the fees while others were just not interested.
“School fees is only $10, but they are not paying. We were supposed to meet as parents yesterday [last Sunday], but they never turned up; they can’t concentrate in giving children education,” Hove said.

The most touching scene was to be found later when some pupils went to the toilets to relieve themselves barefooted.

The area, according to parents who spoke to NewsDay, provided probably the second largest number of votes for President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF during last year’s harmonised elections, but they seem not to be rewarded for their unquestionable loyalty.

A distance from Rushangarume, Mulelezi Primary School had the roof of one of its classroom blocks blown off while at Makuvire Primary School there was inadequate furniture as well.

The people’s only hope lies in the government that should naturally provide education for free in primary schools and the local political leadership which should take education seriously.

However, government is hard-pressed with other issues and the Zanu PF economic blueprint Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset), a supposed panacea to the country’s woes is evidently dysfunctional.

The worst part is that government does not seem interested in donors to assist in the education sector judged by the tone of the Zanu PF election manifesto attacking “donorfication” of local education.

But the “donorfication” of education had, however, helped to improve education during the tenure of the inclusive government with pupils guaranteed of text books and exercise books through the Education Transitional Fund (ETF).

“With a literacy rate of 94, 2%, Zimbabweans are a highly achievement-oriented people who value education as a key goal. The fact that education has become inherent to the goals of Zimbabweans – as a result of Zanu PF’s widely acknowledged investment in education – has seen the rise of meritocracy as an important national goal especially among the youth who now make up the majority of the country’s population,” read the Zanu PF manifesto.

“This donorfication is driven by sinister motives inspired by the desire to uproot the architecture of education and health delivery built by Zanu PF since 1980 and widely acknowledged around the world as hallmarks of unparalleled success.This threat needs to be nipped in the bud to restore the people’s confidence in education and health delivery systems and to ensure their sustainability and relevance to the indigenous imperatives.”

For pupils in the Mwenezi area, a former conservancy turned resettlement area, they rely on what the community can get from partnerships with conservancy owners.

But of late, the fights for the control of conservancies particularly Mjingwe Ranch run by local traditional leaders Chiefs Mazetese and Maranda together with South African investors Alastair Forsyth and Darryl Collett has dampened the community’s spirit for a better education as all projects to build classroom blocks, provide shelter for teachers and other necessities to the villagers have been put on hold.

Collett is at the centre of a fight with army generals, Zanu PF elites and senior police officials battling to wrestle the property.

Among the projects Collett, working with the local chiefs include building of classroom blocks, provision of furniture, building of toilets in the schools and teachers’ houses which the community are in desperate need of.

Working also with the community, Mjingwe Ranch also contributed in the building of a maternity block at a local clinic benefitting hundreds of poor women.

Chief Maranda, one of the traditional leaders in the area, was adamant they will ensure the continuation of the projects initiated by the community through Mjingwe Ranch and vowed to block the uniformed forces trying to wrestle the property.

“What we want is to benefit the community even long after we are gone. It doesn’t matter he is white (Collett) or what, if he works with the community and gives assistance like he is doing, the better. We can’t have people coming here wanting to take resources that are supposed to benefit us, to their provinces,” Chief Maranda said.

His views were also echoed by Chief Mazetese who appreciated the works being done in the community.

Over the years, government has been accused of running down schools and neglecting rural populations or farms by not doing anything to refurbish infrastructure and subjecting pupils and teachers to inhumane treatment.

A case in point is an incident which happened two years ago which resulted in a 14 year-old pupil being killed when a makeshift classroom block at Munhondo Primary School in Darwendale collapsed killing her instantly in full view of other pupils.

The Mwenezi story is a tragedy thousands of rural children and their dedicated teachers are facing on a daily basis, it is a story of neglect by those in the corridors of power who will always visit them during the election campaign period and not in their hour of need.


  1. Mwari tiregerereiwo takakutadzirai nepride yedu senyika tichizviti takafunda kupinda mamwe marudzi ose pasi pano, tichiti tonogona kupinda marudzi ose pasi pano. Takakutadzirai Jehovha, onai fundo iya yatinozvirumbidza nayo zvayatiitira parudzi rwedu. What good is education when you die in abject poverty without hope. Where did we go wrong nhai fellow Zimbabweans? Are we not capable of looking after our poor and elderly? Are we a cursed nation?

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    • Yes we are now a cursed nation . Kune saying Chinese saying inoti ” All the good people are dead, only bad or wicked ones remain.”
      Zanu was a good Party, I was a member of it. During the Liberation was , thousands of Freedom Fighters died for Zimbabweans to be freed.
      ZanuPF is now an evil organization with some if not most of the top membership involved in making money at all cost without an iota of wanting to help other Zimbabweans.
      Wanhu awa havasisina hunhu Wakapindwa nehumbava, humbimbindoga ne corruption.
      Zwimwe zwa rari kuita :
      Using the media to falsely apportion blame for the economic collapse of the country on the MDC (T)
      Wana Chombo nawana Chiyangwa havachaziwa kuti wane dzimba ngani kana kuti mari yqwo yakawanda sei muma bangi.
      Wakuru wanongonokora mari mudura renyika zwisina purani
      Iyo mhomho ye ZanuPF haichagoni kuzwifungira yaita semabiza akapfekedzwa ma blinkers
      Pepa nhau rawo rongo pirinta manyepo anosemesa.

  2. Very painful and real, these ministers and everyone must leave offices they failed and killing the nation

  3. Silas, maziso angu azere nemisodzi. Are we going to live ordinary lives dominated by mundane routine and accept circumstances shaped by others without our consent???? Mwari ngavatibatsirewo please. Never so many been owed so much by a few. Tiri pama1.

    • Mwari haapindire kana shumba ichiuraya dinky
      Mwarti haapindure kana ukaswera wakarara pamubvuri
      Mwari haapindiri kana uka wa munhu anoti warume wese ndewako kana kuti wakazdi wese ndewako- unopedzesere wabata hiv.
      Mwari haapindire kana tikarega mbava dze zanuPF dzichiita madiro nenyika.
      Ini ndinoti Mwari arikuti “Namatai mwakaswinura maziso!

  4. A nation’s level of civilization is judged in the way it treats its children.What crime did our children commit to be penalised so much ?Even projects whose completion would have brought smiles to these innocent souls are being derailed by greedy gangsters hell-bent on self enrichment.Its so sad.Some learn in pigsties,in tobacco barns, under trees and tool sheds !!!! They have been robbed of a future by adults who do not care any more.Oh pliz ,even those in their mothers’ wombs are whispering…”IS IT SAFE OUT THERE ?…”

  5. imi mai masharini nemi vahove ndobasa here rokungoswera muchina kachasu inotengiswa naChipururu muchirega vana vachidzidzira muma jacha.Veruzhinji vanhu ava havade kuvaka chikoro muzvimbo mavo nokuti vanoti muhondo ivo vadzira pasi pomuti vachipasa.nokudaro vanoti havapedzi nguva vachivaka sezvo vari muhondo yenda.Kana varisa baba Beni balazi weschool comit muwar vet haadizvekunzwa kuti vana vanofoira nekuti vanodzidzira panzenokuti ivo vakadzidza chikoro pasi pemuti saka zvakatovanakira.

  6. imi mai masharini nemi vahove ndobasa here rokungoswera muchina kachasu inotengiswa naChipururu muchirega vana vachidzidzira muma jacha.Veruzhinji vanhu ava havade kuvaka chikoro muzvimbo mavo nokuti vanoti muhondo ivo vadzira pasi pomuti vachipasa.nokudaro vanoti havapedzi nguva vachivaka sezvo vari muhondo yeminda.Kana varisa baba Beni balazi weschool comit muwar vet haadizvekunzwa kuti vana vanofoira nekuti vanodzidzira panzenokuti ivo vakadzidza chikoro pasi pemuti saka zvakatovanakira.

  7. mwenezi is well rich in cattle ranching and good soil but parents could not afford to build two stardad blocks what a pity. Looking bothsides the management in these school is sleep walking they must engage in progects at least to upgrade their school.The headmasters of these school who are most local in the areas do not shame about these state because they attended school in similar and somewhat miraculously managed to attain a chain of 5 cs.They influence the majority ilitarate group who saw them as messiahs without encourtage them to work.ini zvangu mangenje ndofira kureva kuti Rushangarume is far much better than Chemakudo ,chisvine,gandahari, Muraba just to mention a few afew school in the same Arid Region.

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