Sister Anne Hughes ( our Parish Pastoral Associate) spent some years working in Zimbabwe with Father Mark Hacket.

Stories about Zimbabwe Pupils – all the money from each pudding sold goes to help them

Zimbabwe made great efforts in the education sector after independence but many schools especially in the rural areas are now lagging far behind. The challenge is mostly to be found in rural areas where schools perform dismally in examination rankings.

Many pupils walk long distances to school. A young man whom I taught walked 13 kilometres backwards and forward to school each day, carrying his shoes as he did not want to wear them out. It was reported last year in Wedza that some Grade 1 pupils walk for over 8 kilometres from their rural villages. Then they go to sleep in class. Most village children live long distances from school.

During my time there, and indeed today, secondary school youngsters are unable to study at night unless they want to risk losing their eyesight or exposing themselves to fire-related accidents by using candles. So they remain at school for long hours doing homework.

Rural schools are in a dilapidated state especially in resettlement areas. At worst, some pupils learn under trees.

Classrooms are bare, desks and chairs in need of repair. The old blackboards are about the only teaching aid the classroom teachers have. In my time there, the chalk was so “chalky” it soon broke or was worn to a stump. My Aussie friends used send me smooth chalk! Textbooks are hard to come by and have to be collected at the end of each lesson. Otherwise they may turn up at the markets in Harare for sale!

Children in secondary school were given several exercise books and biros at the beginning of the year. I can remember some enterprising students joining the line twice hoping they would not be recognised. It was a good trick. When faced with 45 secondary school pupils with smiling brown faces and white teeth, it was hard to pick the offenders!

Teachers are inexperienced, demotivated and underqualified. When I was teaching in secondary school in the late eighties and early nineties, the Government was attracting volunteer teachers for secondary schools and paid them a wage. I taught with young people from Europe, America, Britain and Australia. We taught Cambridge A levels and O Levels. It was reported in the Zimbabwe News last year that many pupils do not travel back to the schools to collect their O level or A level Certificates. Examination fees must be paid before collection.

This month all money received for the sale of puddings will be sent to Fr Mark Hackett for distribution to needy children, to help them with their education.

Sister Anne Hughes

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