School fees in Zimbabwe

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I have recently come back from Zimbabwe, where I taught in a Secondary School. I met some amazing pupils and teachers. I still have the joy to chat to them on a daily basis through Whatsapp.

I was sadden today when I was talking to a form 3 (equivalent to year 10) student today in Zimbabwe. I knew that it was a legal requirement to go to school but the families have to pay school fees. It works out about £40 a month per student. That’s nothing in our society, where we earn double or triple this in a day!

However, to these families it is everything. Only 10% of the country are employed so the others have to scrape money from anything they can sell. Most people won’t buy things off them as they can’t afford it themselves. These people live in tiny one room houses, where they are six or seven people living in them. They live in poverty.

When chatting to her, she was saying that she is currently not allowed to go to school as her Mum has no money to pay the fees. All she wants to do is learn. This brings tears to my eyes. Apparently schools think that money is more important than the pupils.

She asked me to come back to teach her.

I know I have made a difference in their lives and helped those in need.

You can too.

Donate here and you will be helping me go to South Africa to help children like these. All they want to do is learn.

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Zimbabwe: what I will miss

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I have just arrived back in England. My eyes feel with tears but also joy in my heart. I was only in Zimbabwe for two week but it feels like long.

From the time we arrived in Zimbabwe, everyone was so friendly and welcoming. They all feel like family, caring and loving us, having a laugh with us. Even the people I met on the course or at church or in the school will always have a place in my heart.

Teaching at the Paraclete Presbyterian College was an amazing experience; having no resources and a black board. All the children wanted to learn, were focused, and it was great getting to know them in the short time I was there.

Zimbabwe is about singing and dancing to escape some of the living conditions. I loved that they harmonised with each other using no instruments and the crazy dancing. Just so talented.

The people I met were generally so happy and they were in community with each other even though a lot of them were in poverty. Some were living in a small one bedroom place, where 6 people had to sleep. They ate the same food every day and could afford to go into a supermarket so they had to grow their food.

I will miss the amazing hot and dry weather, walking around in t-shirt, shorts and sandals. Everyday the sun was out, giving blazing heat. The sunrises and sunsets were one of the most beautiful, I have beer seen.

I even got used to the lack of electricity, water and internet. It’s not there, let do something else.

This is my prayer for you:
‘Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News. God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.

I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.’
Philippians 1:3-11 (NLT)

Zimbabwe schools: differences

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As I was teaching out in Zimbabwe, I noticed some remarkable differences in the schools compared to English Schools.

-Day layout: Assembly from 7.15-7.30 then lessons through day until 1.00 then children are expected to studying until 2. They then have different clubs they are expected to attend. They are different depending on the term.

– Most lessons are half an hour slots

– No textbooks

– Blackboards and chalk

– ‘O’ levels then A-Levels

– Children stay in the same classrooms

– Pupils seem to have quite a few study periods

– ‘O’ Levels and A levels are limited

– No coursework

– Layout of a classroom: tables with two people on in rows facing the front with one or two blackboards using chalk. No displays around the class room.

– No massive plans

– No differentiation

-Teachers teach about 3 different subjects

– Children are focused and better behaved

– If the children are late or badly behaved, their punishment is usually being hit with a stick.

– They do have an ICT room but it got rarely used whereas in England ICT (laptop, computers, iPads, interactive whiteboards) are used all the time.

Zimbabwe: special needs school and farewell

(Tuesday) It’s our last day in Zimbabwe and this makes me extremely sad. I am tempted to delay my flight and stay here a couple more weeks.

This morning, we went to a special needs school, where one of the women’s child from Presbyterian church go. When we arrived, the Head Teacher and Deputy Head welcomed us and did a basic talk about the school.

There are 62 children in the school, aged 5-26. After this, some of them stay on to become teaching assistants. The children have a range of needs from physical to intellectual with sight, hearing mobility problem to autism and Down’s syndrome. It cost $250 per term to attend, which covers food, bus, cook and driver. Parent are involved with the school and help run it.

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It was inspiring to hear that they will never refuse anyone to come but there are some parents out in Zimbabwe that hide their children if they have special needs. The schools mission is to make individuals as normal as possible. Therefore, in reception they learn skills like washing and dressing themselves. I think this is great so that they can become independent and not rely on their parents as they grow up.

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After, we went around each class, blowing bubbles, playing with balloons and other toys. The children loved this and it brought a smile to my face. We hung around a little while they had their playtime and took some pictures if them.

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When we got back from the Special Needs School, the secondary school children were piling chairs into the hall, getting ready for a whole school assembly for us. They set up chairs around the edge at the front for the team, while the pupils were in rows facing the front. There was a table on the stage for the Head teacher and Deputy Head but they also wanted me to sit there, which was embarrassing.

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I had prepared an assembly for the students about our identity in God. It started with a drama, which emphasised that we all have worldly identities. After I talked about God being our identity and that if you believe in him, we are a new creation. I spoke these words for the children to resonate with:

Before Christ… I was a different person… This person was my old nature… My old self… But that person died… And my life is now hidden… With Christ… I am in Christ… And he is in…me… I am a new creation… That doesn’t mean that I will never stumble… Or fall back into old patterns… But I will call them what they are… Old patterns… Old habits of the old person… I will confess them… I will thank God for his forgiveness… I will make amends… Then…I…will…move on… Not because I am taking sin lightly… But because I am taking seriously who God says I am… Holy…pure…un stained…without blemish… Not because of anything I’ve done… But because of what a God has done…for me… He has wiped my sin clean… I am blameless before God… Therefore shame… Has no place in my life… Because I am a new creation… A new creation… And all of the other parts if my story… The parts I want to pretend never happened… Have been redeemed… And they have become… The moments in my life… When God’s Grace is most on displayed… Thank you God… My mistakes do not define me… My past does not define me… Because God has defined my identity… I am his beloved child… In whom he is well pleased… This is my identity.

After we gave them some scriptures to rake hold of before singing to them as a team. Usually, I would not sing to a group of teenagers at home but as they do a lot of singing and dancing in their culture, they would appreciate it.

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When we had finished our part, I sat down as the pupils sang, danced and recited poetry. It gave us a true insight to their culture and how much they love to escape the world of poverty and sing or dance. Some of them had incredible voices and even the boys sang.

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For the rest of the afternoon, I hung out with the pupils while they made loom bands with the supplies I had given them, took loads of photos, then I hung out with Norest (a Zimbabwean guy I met out there) and prepared food for the evening.

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We had planned a farewell meal, where we invited all the staff and their families, while we made and served a three course English meal for them: soup, shepherds pies and apple crumble or trifle.

The evening was a sad but joyous time. There were speeches from the majority of people there and singing and dancing (that’s what Zimbabweans like to do). We ate, spend time with them, gave presents and served them.

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I can’t believe we were leaving the next day. What an amazing time in this country. The people have been incredible – so welcoming, caring, loving! I really want to stay!

Zimbabwe: Mbizi game park and Avondale market

(Monday) A relaxing, well deserved day-off. After a packed 10 days, it was great to have a day to explore. We booked a morning at Mbizi game park, a thing you have to do while in Africa.

‘Mbizi’ means zebra in Shona.

After a bumpy, hour long journey, we landed in the game park. As we approached the gates, around us I could see high fences with tall tree and unusual, large rocks fill the area. We were asked many questions before entering into the site, where we parked our car and approached the front desk. The place looked incredible and tranquil with a large, well kept garden, and hatched lodges.

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Next on the itinerary was to explore the game reserve, which we decided to do on a zebra print 4×4. Our guide was driving around the place, stopping at different parts of the area, explaining the different animals. For me this was interesting to experience as my last topic at school was Africa and the children had to apply for a job as a Game Ranger. Seeing a real Game Ranger felt unreal.

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First, we drove around one area of the 1000 arcs of land, trying to keep our eyes pealed for a giraffe. After going in and out and around and through trees, we gave up on that area and zoomed to the open space with Zebras, warthog and Eland. We crept as quietly as you can in a jeep and parked in the middle of them so we could take photos and hear some information on them. While we were still, the animal must have felt our presence and slowly moved away from us.

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Once our game ranger had contacted the other group, who had found the giraffes, we sped off to seek them. We came so close to them in their natural habit, it was amazing.

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As we drove back to the reception area, we passed the water hole. Then we explored the area by foot, where we found an observation desk, a chapel, a kind of swimming pool and lodges as well as a colourful lizard and wandering monkeys. I decided, being me, to sit on the bridge dangling my legs into the water and then plunge most of body into it, getting soaking wet.

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We had a lovely lunch in the game park before leaving.

The whole place a unique experience and the sun was blazing. What more could you want?

When we left, we headed to Avondale market. I love markets. This was an experience. Avondale Flea Market is a large outdoor market under canvas located just behind Avondale shopping market. The moment we stepped towards the market, people were shouting at us. ‘We will do special price for you’, ‘Buy something small from us’, ‘Look at what we have’, ‘ We have been waiting for you’.

The market were full of African ornaments, jewellery, place mats, gadgets, masks, clothes, key rings, gifts and souvenirs, all for a cheap price.

One great thing about markets is bargains and bartering. Everyone wants you to buy from them. If the price is too high, barter, even walk away and they will usually take the price you want. If not, each stall had similar things so you would probably find the same objects further in.

I ended up being in one pressurised situation, which I didn’t like. I was looking for some long shorts (usual item of clothing I get from my different holidays). The guys were helpful, I told them exactly what I wanted and showed me a variety. Some that fit my specification; others that did not. I found a pair that I kind of liked so asked the price -$40 RIDICULOUS. I explained that I usually get mine for the equivalent of $5-$8 (cheap, I know). I bartered hard and they eventually put the price down to $10. They put the shorts in a bag and shoved it in my hand like I had no choice so I did buy them.

I did, however, get loads of bargains and brought some items (not as much as the others) like the shorts, earring, skirt, bracelet, elephant pillow case and a trillion dollar note.

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After, we went to the supermarket to buy food for the three course English meal, and where I brought some gifts and looked at some of the prices of English goods:

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M&M – $8.65

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Quality Street – $13.99

Slightly more expensive than England.

On the way back, we dropped into the Chinese Shop, which was huge with everything you want in. Unfortunately, the majority of Zimbabweans would not be able to afford it in here.

What a jam-backed, lovely day experiencing the African culture!

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