The Matopo Primary School Teacher-to-Teacher project is documented here. It is kindly being supported by ETAS (English Teachers Association Switzerland) and the Roger Federer Foundation.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Summer update of situation



Summer Update

It is with a growing sense of concern that I follow the news about developments in Zimbabwe. Probably you, too, have read some of the articles that have been appearing fast and furiously in the international media, none of which have anything good to say about the current situation in that beleaguered country.

I fear for our colleagues and friends at Matopo Primary School, and worry that all of our combined efforts may be in vain, given the prognosis. At the time of writing (April 24, 2007) this was what was being reported:

From The New Yorker, April 9, 2007:

Zimbabwe’s inflation rate is already more than seventeen hundred per cent, the highest in the world, and the International Monetary Fund warns that it could exceed five thousand per cent by year’s end. Unemployment is around eighty per cent, and the average income is less than a dollar a day. With chronic food shortages and no medical system left to speak of, life expectancy has plunged from sixty years, in 1990, to less than thirty-seven years (the shortest anywhere), while the infant mortality rate has increased by more than fifty per cent. Not surprisingly, as many as three million Zimbabweans—a quarter of the population—have fled the country. Yet last week Mugabe’s information minister, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, declared, “There is no crisis whatsoever in Zimbabwe.”

And from The Economist, April 5, 2007:

For eight straight years the economy has been contracting; it has shrunk by half since 1999. The collapse of agriculture, after Mr Mugabe snatched commercial farms to give to political cronies, is one big problem. Lack of confidence in the rule of law deters investors. A once booming tourist industry is all but dead, with safari lovers deterred by violent repression. Most aid money stopped long ago…What has taken a decade or so to sink is likely to take a generation to get afloat again. (my emphasis)

This last sentence is one reason we can’t give up on Matopo Primary School. These children ARE the generation who will have the task of rebuilding the economy when the time comes, as it surely will.

The other reason we can’t give up is the dozens of hand-written thank-you letters, poems, and stories which I received from Patson Mpofu, who has managed to send three bulky envelopes to me via kind well-wishers from the U.S and U.K. He writes:

“Thank you so much for the donation of Swiss francs to purchase English textbooks. We have bought English textbooks for grades 1-7, 40 sets per class. (That makes) the ratio 1-1 for English instead of 1-10 which was the case previously…We hope the pass rate will improve this year…Thanks for the uniforms for 60 girls (see photos)”

In the envelope were many letters of thanks from the children. I wish we could print all of them! Here is a typical one, from Princess Ndlovu, 9 years old:

Sadly, many of the letters and poems describe an all-too-common problem: no parents. Half of the children at Matopo Primary school (about 200 kids) have been orphaned, and are living with relatives or in child-headed families. Another oft-repeated theme concerns water—Matopo is a very arid place indeed, and when the rains don’t come, people really suffer. Obviously, the consequences of a drought will be exacerbated this season by the economic collapse. When families cannot earn a living or even feed themselves, how can they afford to send their children to school? It’s a tragic situation.

On a brighter note, a long letter from Patson describes the delivery of the English textbooks which ETAS donations provided. He wrote: “Coincidentally the 14 March (when the books were delivered) is my birthday, so the textbooks will be a very good birthday present for me and the school…We are grateful to ETAS for helping us…We are thankful to ETAS for sending material for the uniforms. On 7 March, 60 girls, all needy pupils, received school uniforms from ETAS in the presence of Mrs Sandy Paul. Sandy photographed the pupils (see photo). Their parents danced, sang and ululated and shouted “ETAS! ETAS!”

How I wish I could have seen that!!

Patson and I have been discussing the possibility of my giving a teacher’s Development Day this coming October when we will be visiting Zimbabwe, and have already started putting together a programme. Everyone is very excited about this idea. I’m looking into ways to transport the necessary materials and books; I only hope that events will not intervene and disappoint Patson and his colleagues—keep your fingers crossed.

Many thanks to everyone who has supported this project so far! As you know, we collected money from the raffles at the convention in January in Solothurn, and the SIG Day in May in Wil. Quite a few friends, colleagues (including Cambridge University Press) and my students have also given money and materials towards the project. This money has already made a big difference to Matopo Primary School, but there is still a long list of things to be done. If you would like to help, please do contact me.

Cindy Hauert


Doris Soares said...

It is very sad to see how little concern can a government have for its population.
Nevertheless, there are people who DO CARE,like you!
I hope this project is a success!
Doris -Brazil.

Cris said...

Dear Cindy,

Life is usually easy; people however make it quite often really hard, but you are making the difference for those Matopo kids. I can only applaude your generous contribution to their education.
I surely would like to help. How can I get in touch with you?
my email:

Carla Arena said...

Dear Cindy,

I also come from a country that suffers from a lot of discrepancies and inequalities, Brazil. Although, for millions of people there, life is tough, we keep being optimistic and, as an educator, I try to do my little part to help my students progress as good citizens and with a critical eye on what happens around them.

So, keep doing your share. I´m sure it will pay off in the long run. These kids will be always grateful for having someone who cares for them.

Warm Regards,
Carla Arena

Gisela said...

I am just back from Kenya. There will be elections in december. All the canditates promise a better education, more money for schools and teachers. But the difference between poor and rich is that incredible.The poorest would be happy with a room and a teacher. They don't need a lot. Sometimes I really feel sad when I see, how rich Kenyans treat poor Kenyans. Then I'd like to help in any way but it is endless. You dont know where to start.
I hope your project will be successful.