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The Story of a Small Community

Written by Khesani Matatise   

Gaza Trust LogoOne little girl had a story to tell.

She is doing grade four at Chikombedzi primary school in rural Chiredzi.

Her story is about her struggle to get a decent education that will adequately mirror her inner sense of dignity yet her parents can barely manage their large family and with her sisters already married off, pressure may be on her to marry after sitting for her grade seven or ordinary level examinations.

As the socio-economic and political environment rapidly changes, she has held on to education as a principle that will never betray her, one which unfortunately, is difficult to achieve due to the challenges thrown onto her way by circumstances out of her control.

As she told the story at a recent career guidance day held at Alpha Mpapa High School at Chikombedzi growth point deep in south east Chiredzi, everyone else present did not hear it except this writer. The story is uniquely set in the Shangani community but it strikingly resembles that of many African children told on the 15th of June which is the day of the African Child.

Connected with that story is a youth initiative called Gaza Trust that has taken up the promotion of the holistic cultural recognition and development of the marginalised peoples as its mandate. This group was the official co-ordinator of the career guidance day which was attended by thirty-one exhibitors and hundreds of school children.

Prominently present were The Provincial Labour Office and The Provincial Education Office that also organised the event.

Forward with EducationExhibitors included such government departments as the Zimbabwe National Army, the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Department of Wildlife and Management Authority. Also exhibiting were members of the private sector. The honourable Member of Parliament for Chiredzi South Mr Ailess Baloyi together with Mr Ndaba of Chiredzi North graced the occasion which was also attended by academics from all walks of life with the aim of motivating children to pursue academic excellence.

Guest of Honour on the event Mr Raphael Karidza, who is the Human Resources Director of Tongaat Hulett, perhaps put it across poignantly, if not rhetorically when he quoted a Malian proverb that says, "Those who accomplish great things pay attention to the little ones."

"The fact of the current situation is that formal jobs are scarce. Industry has no capacity to absorb all the large numbers of graduates from colleges and universities or even technical institutions," he said.

When presented with the educational statistics of rural Chiredzi which is predominantly Shangani speaking one cannot help but realise that while other children fail to utilise opportunities, others fail to get them at all.

Smile BelovedAccording to statistics gleaned by Gaza Trust from the Ministry of Education, Arts, Sports and Culture, out of the thousands of primary students who made it to grade seven in forty-four schools, only one thousand three hundred and sixty-eight managed to sit for examinations and of these, only one hundred and eighty-six passed four subjects in the year 2011. This picture becomes bleaker in the secondary and high school level where in one case only fourteen students managed to sit for Ordinary Level examinations and none passed. This meant that no-one qualified to proceed to Advanced Level.

Speaking on the sidelines of the event, the Director of Gaza Trust Mr Hebert Phikela said his organisation took it upon its shoulders to combat the challenges faced by the rural child of the marginalised communities.

"The first challenge faced by these little ones apart from those affecting other cultures is that they have to learn the Shona or Ndebele languages spoken by the teacher when their mother tongue is Shangani with the result that their foundational years at school are disoriented. As we know this is a colonial legacy which violates the child's basic rights," he said.

He said the Shangani culture has some obsolete practices that need to be developed so that they embrace the total education of the child and respect human rights.

"The poor results of our children have jerked us into action, causing us to create a platform for teachers, parents, representatives of school children and civic society to have constructive dialogue," he said.

Great ExpectationsGaza Trust aims to motivate both parents and children to see the value of education while it endeavours to create a scholarship fund. This fund will have a special bias on orphans, the girl child and other vulnerable children.

On this year's Youth Day the children of rural Chiredzi had the opportunity of appreciating an array of career options on offer in our country with the hope of getting a bigger impression in next year's career day.

As all people dispersed with satisfaction, the grade four school girl also went her way but crucial questions from her story still stick out like dangerous spikes that need cutting.

She is a little girl in a small community that is not worthy writing home about, yet she is a grand prototype of the little children of small communities strewn around the globe who may not be lucky to get the decent education that they so desire.

To Gaza Trust and others who care, her story presents a real challenge that provokes a lot of head scratching and even grey hair!

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