“BUNO Primary school, 34 years after independence,” writes Gokwe-Nembudziya MP Justice Mayor Wadyajena on a makeshift blackboard in what is supposed to be a classroom block at one school in his constituency.
THE CENTRE SPREAD
BY MOSES MATENGA
After enduring a long journey along battered roads and dust to reach the school, about 10 kilometres from Nembudziya Business Centre, the sight was just unpleasant.
Head of the school Given Mteyiwa, who cycles eight kilometres to work, has a one-roomed office at the centre of Buno Primary School.
His 252 children bear the July wind staring at their youthful MP Wadyajena, hoping that he would take them to their desired independence.
“Dai pasina Mayor wedu, ndiani waizondiona (had it not be for our Mayor, who was going to help us),” as they sang praises for Wadyajena.
Wadyajena, who is now a politician and successful young businessman hailing from the locality, seems to be sharing the pupils’ plight.
He constantly expressed his disgust at “this kind of school, 34 years after independence”.
A Grade Six pupil Weston Chiwata knows exactly what he wants and makes it clear that the pole and dagga infrastructure needs new classroom blocks, textbooks and uniforms so that his ultimate dream of becoming a medical doctor is realised.
Wadyajena explained that this was no laughing matter and expressed that there was nothing to celebrate the emphatic July 31 election victory until the school is built.
“This is not a celebration for my election victory. We are here to build a school for the children and the future. When the right time comes, we will then celebrate,” said Wadyajena when he addressed scores of Zanu PF supporters and parents who had gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony at the school.
There is absolutely no furniture to talk about as all schoolchildren sit on benches made from mud.
“Last year, a chalkboard fell over us and seven pupils were injured. When it’s raining, it leaks and we use a block which leaks less,” said one of the pupils.
The head said the school had only eight teachers who cycle to and from their workstation daily. He emphasiaed that they were demoralised.
“We have no staffroom, no teachers’ accommodation and the children have no textbooks. My vision for the school is to upgrade its standards,” Mteyiwa said.
Wadyajena said he was appalled by the state of affairs and wondered how previous political leaders allowed such a situation to prevail.
He donated 200 tonnes of cement towards the construction of the school.
Committees have been established to ensure work takes off to build and complete the classroom blocks in the shortest possible time.
The schoolchildren expressed their feeling through song and dance, saying they were being betrayed by their parents who chose trivialities over their education.
“If you are called for a beer drink, you rush in numbers, but you don’t do the same when it comes to paying our school fees,” the children sang.
The school said it registered a 17% pass rate in 2012 and 21% in 2012 and 2013 respectively with the highest scorer in 2012 scoring 17 units while in 2013 one attained 15 units.
Wadyajena urged parents to focus more on sending their children to school, paying fees and also assisting in the development of the school.
But most parents said that it was poverty that has resulted in them not sending their children to school.
“Parents should pay their fees and teachers should not chase away pupils from school. I hope together we will build this school,” Wadyajena said.
Wadyajena urged parents not to indulge in political wars and also urged politicians to concentrate on developing and upgrading their constituencies.
“You begin to wonder what these people where doing in the past. It is sad to see such things in an independent Zimbabwe,” Wadyajena said.
“ZimAsset has clusters and school construction is one of them. It hurts to find that 34 years after independence, pupils are learning in infrastructure that resembles a pigsty. Qualified teachers don’t want to come here because of the state of the school yet we blame the teachers for the poor pass rate,” Wadyajena said.
He also said he was aware of people that were against construction of the school and urged them to stop engaging in political wars.
“Such people have children going to better schools yet they want your children to sit under such infrastructure as though they are snakes that slither in such dirt,” he said.
The school is located about five kilometres from the economic hub of Gokwe which is a cotton hub Zimbabwe where meaningful development should be taking place.
Chief Nembudziya said that the job of developing the school was a community effort that required input from every villager and not the MP alone.
“We have heard that there are some parents who were not paying school fees, and we have on some occasions summoned them because this is embarrassing. Just look at the state of roads in this area . . . there is absolutely no meaningful development taking place in this part of Zimbabwe,” the Chief said.
The United Nations Children’s Fund estimates that an average 10 children shares one textbook in Zimbabwe whilst the education ministry says 98% of the budget goes to paying teachers, leaving very little for the facelift of infrastructure.
A teacher at the school concurred with UNICEF’s findings saying it was difficult to promote a reading culture because of this sad state of affairs.
Government has failed to implement its economic blueprint, ZimAsset, due to lack of resources, and it may take many years to realize the set targets.
The government has also, through the Zanu PF manifesto, not allowed any non-governmental organisations to chip in with donor funding.
“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,” reads the 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.”
But the most painful truth for Buno Primary Schoolchildren is that while they are struggle under such difficult circumstances, there seems to be no hurry or urgency by government to address their plight.
This is just a case of a discarded generation.