The wretched schoolchildren of Caledonia

PERCHED in the south east of Tafara suburb is Caledonia, also referred to as Eastview, a sprawling settlement that is estimated to have more than 40 000 residential stands.


Pupils conduct lessons inside a makeshift tent at Eastview School
Pupils conduct lessons inside a makeshift tent at Eastview School

Eastview School, the only such institution in the area, lies derelict, resembling a disused scrap yard due to lack of infrastructure.

On approaching the school, one quickly observes a gardener moving from one flower bed to another, erecting ridges with sand and bricks.

But the plants seem to be mocking his efforts and look determined to wilt despite the generous watering aided by the rains that have been pouring in the area.

The failing flowers strikingly betray a misery that children have endured in despair, with no single permanent structure fit to be for a school.

A handful of women sit with their wares, snacks, sweets and “freezits”, cashing in on the children.

Next to them is a shipping container inscribed “Xien Hung”, which serves as a classroom for over three classes of different grades.

“Sometimes we take shifts, but when it rains, we squeeze as many as we can,” a female teacher at the school said, adding that all what the pupils and their parents remember are broken promises.

They still have vivid memories of Primary and Secondary Education minister Lazarus Dokora’s address to them.

“Different ministers have come here before, including Dokora, who wore a checkered jacket on the day and swore he would remove it and go back to his rural home if government did not start construction work here by September 2015,” she said in disappointment.

Dokora did not respond to calls from NewsDay Weekender and ministry spokesperson, Patrick Zumbo said he was in a meeting.

Residents were allegedly conned, before, by people who made them pay up to $69 000 for development which never happened.

School development committee chairperson, Artwell Chiurunge said although they won the court case against the individuals who claimed to be representing First Lady Grace Mugabe, they do not know what happened to them.

He said they had written to the First Lady and President Robert Mugabe, but they have received no response.

“Due to lack of infrastructure, enrolment is coming down and now we have less than 1 000. Some are now being lured to colleges in houses around the suburb, but we fear it will not do them any good, as they are mixed and one teacher has more than 100 pupils of different classes in one small room,” Chiurunge said.

He said there have been promises by different people, who include Harare mayor Bernard Manyenyeni, but nothing has happened.

“I don’t know whether the President does not hear us, since we went through the First Lady, but she too has said nothing, even after we told her that her name was abused,” Chiurunge said.

Manyenyeni said council was yet to take over Caledonia from the government.

“We have not yet taken over Caledonia. There is still a transitional mechanism that is being driven by the Ministry of Local Government and I would say channel your questions to them. They will probably be better placed to give you an educated answer,” he said.

Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere did not respond to calls and had not responded to a message sent to his mobile phone at the time of going to print.

A parent, Tendai Chivhima, said they rejoiced when Dokora came and pledged to develop the school in August 2014.

She said they were failing to understand what was delaying the promised development and lamented that they were ordered to turn away well-wishers, as government was now coming in to start construction.

“Colleges are killing our children’s future. We need the public sector to be responsible here and not the private sector because most of the people here cannot afford to pay school fees monthly as is required by colleges,” she said.

The local legislator, Terrence Mukupe said he had tried to make follow ups with Dokora, but had since realised the minister was uninterested.

“I followed up with Dokora and it turned out that the story about the funds was a lie. I have offered to raise some from my own pocket, but Dokora is not interested and he does not care,” he said.

“I also learnt that a private college (Herentals College) was earmarked to get the land, but the people here are poor and they may not even afford $20 per month.”

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1 Comment

  1. poor caledonia resdent

    in caledonia we are not poor most of us here we are civil servants. Government, UDCORP and land barons including those in higher ranks in government they are milking Caledonia residents. We are now starting over to purchase these stands from local government and they are silent to refunds or forwarding of our money we paid cooperatives. The situation in caledonia is going to be worse as they are creating more small stands from 2000 m2 , 1000 m2 to 250 m2, 300 m2. There will be more than 60 000 households after this exercise with no sewer, water and roads because of this we found out that our government is so heartless. We are quiet but does not mean we are doing nothing we know they will need us in future and we just do the same as they do to us. They don’t care about us they care about their fate pocket.

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