Scouts movement faces challenges

Matabeleland played a major part in the birth of Zimbabwe’s scouting movement. These days, discovers PAMENUS TUSO, the movement is struggling.

“Our major challenge is to revive and restore scouting to its former glory.” – Mduduzi Mpofu.
“Our major challenge is to revive and restore scouting to its former glory.” – Mduduzi Mpofu.

One of the founders of scouting, Baden Powell, and Frederick Russell Burnham, an American-born chief of scouts for the British Army, met in Matabeleland in 1896 and so began a lifelong friendship. Baden Powell hatched the idea of a boy scouts movement while in the region.

More than a century on, and underfunding and dwindling membership has left the region’s scouting movement in a sorry state.

“Our major challenge is to revive and restore scouting to its former glory. In the entire Matabeleland province, we have got only active members in four towns –Bulawayo, Victoria Falls, Beitbridge and Bubi. Expanding scouting to outlying rural areas is a challenge which we should tackle as a matter of urgency,” said Mduduzi Mpofu, the assistant provincial scout commissioner for Matabeleland province in an interview with The Zimbabwean.

Mpofu said the advent of technology such as internet and computer games has also adversely affected scouting programmes in the country, as many youths are now preoccupied with the gadgets and found no value in outdoor activities.

“Today’s boy scouting is certainly different from that of the past, which involved mainly outdoor activities, such as hiking, camping, cooking and pioneering, which was unusual during that time.

“As an association, the most difficult challenge we face is to blend these activities with the desire and aspirations of modern youths. We need to consider programmes such as E-scouting, where the boys can network with other scout movements through the internet,” said Mpofu.

The association is also hindered by old campaign and publicity literature that has less relevance to the modern scouting world.

Mpofu said the province, which is an affiliate of the Zimbabwe Scout Association, had embarked on fund-raising and community service activities in the city.

“One of the duties of the scouts is to be useful and help others. As part of helping our community, we are running an environmental project where we collect all disposed plastic containers of Delta Beverages products and we either give or sell them to interested people who use the products to repackage their products. This is a two-pronged approach where we raise money for our activities and at the same time clean the environment,” said Mpofu.

The scouts have also been working closely with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, removing snares at nearby farms.

“Our association has strong and qualified leader training teams, which conduct intensive, action-packed courses filled with challenges and adventures, but a lot of people cannot afford the course fees,” he said.

Under the association’s ‘messenger of peace’ initiatives, Mpofu said the organisation had been involved in HIV/AIDS and peace-building programmes.

As part of the revival of the scout movement in the country, he also revealed that this year the association would be sending a large contingent to the World Scout Jamboree in Japan.

The Matabeleland scout movement currently has four sections – the Beavers (for six- to nine-year-olds), Cub Scouts for (9-11), Scouts (11-18) and Rovers (18-38).

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