IN Marula Village, Mangwe District, many children can only go as far as attaining primary education because there are no nearby high schools in the area.
The scenario has forced most children to abandon school after completing their Grade Seven while some who would have proceeded to form one dropped mid-way as a result of the long distances which they could not endure.
This has prompted daring villagers of Mangwe District to take matters into their hands, amid poverty, to construct their first community secondary school in a bid to bring education closer to their children.
Elite Tembo, one of the key committee members of the Marula High School Project said she was passionate about the initiative because her children had also suffered the plight of walking many kilometres to the nearest primary school and then they don’t get to proceed with their secondary education.
The primary schools are far away — with the furthest being about 52km away from the village homesteads. As for secondary schools there are none in the area.
“It is disturbing and painful to see a child in Grade One walking a 10km distance every day in order to reach school. A child at that age should not experience what is being experienced by our small children. Our village does not have a primary school nearby and as a result children walk very long distances. This is what the children have to endure daily,” said Tembo.
She added: “ As for the secondary schools we only know of the ones in Plumtree and Usher and it’s difficult to send our children there because you would have to look for a house to rent for the kids but we don’t have the money. In most cases the children complete Grade Seven and just sit at home and this really pains us as parents.”
Tembo said while it was widely believed that rural pupils usually get pregnant early, shortage or absence of schools was one of the many often unsaid reasons why children from marginalised communities ended up in early marriages.
That is why the objective of the project, Tembo said, ‘‘is to bring education closer to children” so that they get quality education which they would use to advance themselves and their underdeveloped communities in future.
Another parent who identified herself as Mrs Jongwe, said their children were looking forward to the completion of the school and that maybe they could avoid running to other countries to seek greener pastures.
“Most of our children still believe that they can only shape their future by going to South Africa but we are saying even if they decide to go there they must first acquire proper educational qualifications.
“So by constructing a secondary school closer to them, we want to address barriers such as distance which make them lose interest in schooling,” she said.
Instead of waiting for Government to build a school for them, the dedicated group of locals with the assistance of their community members have already begun constructing classroom blocks on a piece of land provided by the local authority.
The village head, Moses Sibanda, said while voluntary work did not always attract much interest from villagers, the school construction project was one initiative surfaced with both sweat and tears of joy.
“I am glad because community members are very much forthcoming in this project. They volunteer their time, labour and resources to ensure that the school is complete and this has been the major strength of this project,” Sibanda said.
According to Sibanda, some families have donated bags of cement and bricks for the construction.
He said they were, however, preoccupied with mobilising resources from well-wishers to ensure that they have several blocks to cater for the many children in the area.
Gracious Mathonsi, who completed her grade seven, in 2018 but could not proceed to secondary school said she could not wait for the school to be completed so that she furthers her studies.
“At the moment I am seated at home and all I do are chores. Our sisters got married early and our brothers went to South Africa because they had nothing to do after completing primary level. I really wish the school can be completed so that I can learn, get a good job and look after my parents,” said Mathonsi.
There can be exceptions in some parts of the country, but poor access to schools in rural areas is a national problem acknowledged by the Government, NGOs and key stakeholders. A study, Educational Provision in Zimbabwe: Issues and Challenges by Professor Charles Muchemwa Nherera highlights that access to education is still restricted among children from low socio-economic backgrounds, farming areas and other remote parts of the country hence the need for those in authority to ensure that every child gets a decent education.