Partying amid poverty

MOLA, KARIBA-Underfed and walking barefoot, children here trudge through bushes risking wild animals just to get to “school”.Despite their palpable poverty, they are still pursuing education with vigour.But, arriving at Kauzhumba Primary School, one is left with a feeling that the government is doing little, if anything at all, to match these children’s determination.A dilapidated shed of asbestos sheets under wooden poles makes for a classroom.

#1980sofarsogood…37 years after Zimbabwe attained independence, some children in Kariba in Mashonaland West province are having to attend lessons in such structures and during hostile weather conditions. While in other countries, education is considered an empowerment right and the primary vehicle by which economically and socially marginalised children can lift themselves out of poverty, in Zimbabwe, this remains a pipedream Pic: Columbus Mavhunga

There are no books in sight, just a blackboard standing and supported precariously by small  tree trunks.Welcome to Mola in Kariba. Here, children are desperate for an education that could pull them out of their daily misery. But there is little hope.It’s a story of misery, despair, sadness and hopelessness. And the situation at Kauzhumba the entire Mola area.More than 36 years after independence, people in this long forgotten area are still living as if they have no government. The area is within walking distance of the mighty Lake Kariba, the main source of Zimbabwe’s electricity generation. But they are not on the national electricity grid so electricity is a mirage. As for safe drinking water, well, that remains a pipe dream, never mind that they live next to one of the continent’s largest water bodies.

Children walk long distances to school, exposing themselves to Lake Kariba’s tributaries infested with crocodiles and to other wildlife in the area.“We have a pupil here recovering at Kariba Hospital after a crocodile mauled her as she was crossing a river to her home about two weeks ago,” a teacher at the school told The Legal Monitor last week.“When rains are about to start, we dismiss the pupils for two reasons: so that they can get to their homes before water levels in rivers increase and also because our classrooms expose them to vagaries of the weather. You can imagine what happens in the case of rains. Both the pupils and teacher get wet,” he said.The teacher, who, like others at the school, refused to be named for fear of reprisals from vindictive state agents, said morale was rock bottom at  the school.“I am praying that one day I can be transferred to my home province of Masvingo. I cannot live like this in a free country,” he said.“Half the time pupils do not come to school and you cannot blame them. There is nothing encouraging under these conditions,” he said, pointing to  his “classroom”.

Pupils look malnourished. In most – if not all – instances it is only the teacher with a textbook. Some pupils learn while sitting on “We have had donors coming here who are willing to chip in, but bureaucracy is holding up things,” Marhanda. “I wish our Minister (of Primary and Secondary Education Dr Lazarus) Dokora would come here just once to see our condition. He would forego his salary and travel allowances for years if he has this country’s education at heart. I think the country’s priorities are skewed,” she said.Despite the dire conditions, fear grips this area that their full names.send some policemen to arrest or beat us up for speaking about our situation,” said Marhanda.“There is no development and there is no freedom,” she said.The conversation turns political. Preparations for President Robert Mugabe’s 93rd birthday celebrations set for Matopo district on 25 February soon take centre stage – though in  hushed tones.“I wish these people had the same energy to fundraise for education,” said Lazarus, who said his three children learn at the dilapidated school.Millions of dollars are set to be spent at President Mugabe’s 93rd birthday bash in Matopos on February 25.In Harare, some activists worried about the lavish spending expected at the president’s birthday party amid nationwide despair have launched what they call “21 Days of Activism Zimbabwe”.

“It is not meant to spoil anyone’s party.  We are just highlighting key issues that need to be prioritised by government. If the government can fundraise millions, then those millions (of dollars) books in schools,” said Sam Farai Munro, one of the activists involved with the campaign. Kudzai Chipanga, the ZANU-PF youth league leader in charge of the birthday party  preparations, differs.“The celebrations are important to Zimbabweans. It is just like how Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, because they look up to Jesus as the savior. Locally, we view our president R.G Mugabe as our saviour, as our liberator,” said Chipanga.Back at Kauzhumba Primary School, teachers, pupils and parents also feel the need for a saviour.A teacher feels dizzy and almost collapses before he is held back.

There is confusion as to what to do with him. There happens if a pupil is bitten by a snake at this school, which is located in a bushy area.Well-wishers decide to take the teacher to Mayovhe Clinic, 15km away. But even with an all-terrain vehicle, the journey takes close to an hour. At one point the vehicle is stuck in mud in the middle of the road – or rather what was once a road many years back.The road is as good as not having one. Some bridges were swept away by rains years back and no one has bothered to repair them One wonders what happens to money generated Lake Kariba. Or the taxes paid by Zimbabweans. At Mayovhe Clinic, the teacher tests negative for malaria and other ailments but the clinic is ill-equipped to do other tests such as checking blood pressure levels so he is referred to Mula Health Centre, which is about 30km away.Three years ago, The Legal Monitor crew was in Mola. Life is still a struggle then. It still is today,  probably worse.During The Legal Monitor crew’s visit three years ago, Champion Rare, the current Chief Mola, said to demand better services for people in his area without any success.

“This giant Zambezi River is there for us to just stare at. We do not We see people from places like Zvimba with permits, not us,” he said then. “Safe drinking water is a problem. I have been to Harare several times but nothing has materialised. I feel like a fool at times as people here might think I do not care for them.”It seems the situation has worsened since June 2014 when Chief Mola made the remarks to The Legal Monitor. Compare the in Harare:  their children anywhere in the worldtreatment anywhere in the world.  The have acces to air travel and experience no delays.

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