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, November 28, 2008

The children of Matopo are not alone

Last summer Cindy and I started a collecting materials for the school of Matopo. It was a call to people who care. In particular my private English class of 5 4th and 5th graders decided that they wanted to make a difference (see post Collecting for Matopo)

In the meanwhile Cindy has been there to give teacher training and to bring the materials that were collected over the summer. On the side you will see the most recent slideshow of this trip.

Well, you can imagine the surprise when they received a packet full of letters of thanks from the pupils of Matopo Primary School and a letter from the Headmaster. They are now undertaking the task of preparing to inform the children of their school, who donated so many things, and to write an article about what they did and the results they see. In addition, they will write back to the children.

I see this as an example of hope and will do my best to keep up the connection between the two schools.

I have blogged about it on their class blog as well: Swiss Primary English

Cindy, you are not alone. Readers of this humble blog, please leave a short comment to show your support for this noble woman and the children and teachers of Matopo.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Frustration as the negotiations drag on

Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, barred three leaders of a peacemaking group known as “the Elders” from entering his country to assess its situation. The three are a former American president, Jimmy Carter; a former secretary-general of the UN, Kofi Annan; and the Mozambican wife of South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, Gra├ža Machel. (from The Economist, Nov 27 2008)

Amidst the current panic over the financial crisis here in Europe and in the U.S., it's easy to forget that people in Zimbabwe have been suffering much worse for a far longer time. A cholera outbreak has claimed hundreds of lives; Patson Mpofu, the Deputy Headmaster of Matopo Primary School has lost 2 sisters.

All the more reason why I cannot give up on this project, even though I feel very discouraged at times. It would be nice to hear a few encouraging words from any readers of this blog!


Monday, November 10, 2008

Teachers Workshop Day, October 6 2008

It was a great event! More than 60 teachers from Matopo Primary School and the surrounding region attended. Each received an Oxford Bookworm reader, a set of colored felt-tip pens, a workshop booklet and assorted other "goodies" including a Toblerone chocolate which I'd brought all the way from Switzerland, worrying about them melting in the heat all the way. They survived!

I had the workshop booklets printed and bound in South Africa, thanks to English Teachers Association of Switzerland donations. It was fun putting the activities together: I included jazz chants, pantomime, songs, drawing and story telling and writing as well as some more theoretical aspects of teaching English, and I feel sure that I achieved the right mix. The feedback was overwhelming!

That said, things are worse than ever in Zimbabwe. The border crossing experience from South Africa was a sign that all is not well--it took us over 5 hours, due to the long queues of people who'd been shopping in Musina for basics which are since a long time not available in Zimbabwe. I thought things couldn't get any worse when I was there last year, but unfortunately I was wrong.

I'll be posting some pictures of the event here soon, so please come back and check for further news.

My own thoughts afterwards were mixed--it seems so discouraging--but in the end I resolved to keep the project going as long as humanly possible. I simply cannot turn my back on these teachers and children now--they need our help more than ever.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


With Cindy about to head off to Zimbabwe to train the teachers there, and the ETAS SIG day coming soon, I thought I'd draw your attention to the need still going on there with this slide show. It's 2 months old and still very true.

Zimbabwe in Crisis
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: social refugee)

Monday, September 1, 2008


In just a few weeks, I'll be heading for Zimbabwe. I can hardly wait! The amazing Teachers Workshop from last October is still so vivid in my memory, and I'm expecting this year's event to be just as wonderful, even though it will be a challenge to gather the necessary resources.

I've already prepared a super programme of activities, games and discussions for the teachers and I'm so excited about sharing the fun with such motivated teachers. It is truly humbling, how enthusiastic these teachers remain in the face of the formidable difficulties in today's Zimbabwe.

It may be a bit quiet here on the blog when I'm away, but please leave your comments, and I look forward to telling all about this year's Teachers Workshop at Matopo Primary School. I hope those parcels I told you about in a previous posting have arrived! We'll be collecting some donations at our next English Teachers of Switzerland event which takes place on September 20th, too.

OK, we're not the Bill Gates foundation so we're not talking millions here (except in Zim money :-()

but every little bit helps, and this money and these materials have been lovingly collected by people who really care. Thank you all for your support!


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Collecting for Matopo

It's amazing how far just a couple of kids and an idea can go!
After a mere 3 weeks my 5 private students had collected quite a pile of materials to go to Matopo Primary School, and in the meanwhile learned about politics, geography and corruption.

They went to each class in their school and presented the idea of collecting the materials that lay at home, unused, or used no longer , to send to other children who really need them.

These same kids now know where Zimbabwe is and can find it on the map at the drop of a hat.

They have also learned that there are people running countries who don't always have the people's interests at heart--a hard lesson, but an important one.

They have learned that there are children who don't have the same lifestyle as they do, nor the material wealth. And they have learned to care about that.

Maybe the difference they are making is small, but if only a few young lives are helped, that is already something!
Posted by Picasa

Monday, June 23, 2008

good news, bad news

I'm having some trouble figuring out if the latest news about the election run-off on June 27 is good news, or bad news.
Don't get me wrong. I want a change in governments in Zimbabwe as much as anybody else does--but the reports of violence running up to the election farce were getting me more and more worried. Who pays the price in such situations? The poor, the weak, the young, the disenfranchised.
What do I want to happen? I want Zimbabwe to become a star of Africa, shining with hope, freedom, better chances for everyone including the sadly diminished wildlife which once was the most prolific in Africa. I want the children and teachers at Matopo Primary School, indeed every school in Zimbabwe, to have devoted, well-paid teachers and the necessary resources to do their jobs. I want those children to have a future when they have completed their education. I want too much?!?!?

Please join me in showing that we care about the future of Zimbabwe! Send a donation, be it money or materials, or just a message of support.

best wishes

Monday, June 16, 2008

The results of our drive have been encouraging! Quite a few people have sent messages of praise and hope, and even some pledges to donate funds for shipping the growing pile of books, paper, pens and drawing pencils which is gathering in my garage from many sources. Thank you all for your generous donations and please pass the word: the need in Zimbabwe is growing every day.

The teachers and pupils at Matopo Primary School are in dire straits from no fault of their own. Whatever the misdeeds of the colonial times, the present regime has shown itself indifferent and even hostile to the welfare of its own people--while the whole world watches, and perhaps sympathizes, it is so frustrating to feel helpless in the face of events bigger than we can control. But here is a chance to do something--hands on and direct!

I wish we could be optimistic about the results of the expected election run-off at the end of this month, but I fear the worst about the outcome. So please, if you care, let us know and lend a helping hand!

Cindy Hauert
Coordinator of the English Teachers Association Teacher-to-Teacher project, Matopo Primary School, Zimbabwe

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The 3 week challenge

If you've just landed here from Switzerland and you want to join in, use these last three weeks of school to help out.

If you are working in a Swiss school, then I challenge you to fill an entire schoolbag with school materials - and send the school bag as well!

If you don't have an English class, then that certainly is no reason to keep from helping. All the materials go directly to the school (Cindy has them shipped directly and will be going down soon to check on the school and bring the materials). Money is used for transport costs and food for the children, who have little to live on. Some are orpheans - all are poor.

Please just leave a comment and we will reply and give you all the details you need.

Thank you for helping

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

How much is 100 Swiss franks?

There's a 1 Frank store just down the road from my house. The last few days I decided to go down and see what was there and whether there was anything useful to send to the kids in Matopo.
The first time I went, it was just 5 of this, that and the other - a 20.- deal. But I realized how many things there were in the store that might not be availbale in Matopo and would probably be much too expensive anyway. So I started buying things in 5s and 10s until I had spent around 100 Franks.
Above you will see how far it went. Not bad really, when you think that there are quite a few pencils and pieces of chalk per pack.

But looking at it, my son and I started thinking about what was missing.
There are no staplers, let alone staples. No clear tape or tape dispensers. Erasers are missing as are pencil sharpeners.

My son had the idea of filling his school bag with stuff and sending it all to the pupils there. Now that is an excellent idea! A school bag full of stuff, multiply that by however many you can think of, and you've got yourself a great source of materials!

In the US we used to have food drives. We would go around the neighborhood asking for cans of food for the needy. Then we'd stack them in the classroom so could see how much we had collected. It was really motivating, and I'm sure it planted a seed in many a young good-doer.

There has been some response to this challenge so far (thank you sooo much to those of you who have contributed with your comments, suggestions and motivating ideas) but I must say it falls short of what was expected. Maybe the challenge needs to be lengthened. Maybe just a bit more time is needed. Maybe I was naive.

I won't give up, though!
We're looking forward to hearing from YOU!

Cindy and I certainly hope to hear from more of you and be able to end this challenge with a feeling of success.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Day 5 of the 21-Day challenge

The ETAS Teacher-to-Teacher Project

Cindy Hauert, the initiator and co-ordinator of the current ETAS Teacher-to-Teacher project, became interested in helping Matopo Primary School on a visit to Zimbabwe in 2003. Through friends in the region, the first steps were taken to make contact with the Headmaster, Mr Newman Ncube, and the Deputy Headmaster, Mr Patson Mpofu.

Cindy proposed the project to ETAS in 2006, and after its acceptance, she began organizing funding and donations of materials to the school. In October of 2007, she led a Teachers’ Day Workshop at the school, which 35 teachers from the region attended. It was a glorious success, one which she hopes to repeat this year.

Through the help of ETAS, uniforms have been provided for about 160 pupils, text books have been bought, and even basic food supplies have been given. It has all been a big help and the morale amongst the teachers has been raised tremendously.

With the rapidly deteriorating conditions in Zimbabwe the need has become more acute than ever. Hardly anything is available in Zimbabwe, even if the school had the money to make purchases.

This challenge has been set up by Cindy and Illya to address these needs. We hope you will be moved to assist—400 children at Matopo Primary School, and their teachers, will be so grateful.

The best thing about this project is that all donations and proceeds go directly where they are most needed—there’s no middleman taking a cut!

If you’d like to make a cash donation or collect materials for the school, please leave a comment here and we'll get back to you immediately

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The 21-day challenge for Matopo

The 21-day challenge

At the moment there is much suffering in the world and all eyes are turned east towards China and Burma. People’s suffering in these places is horrifying, but the charity being generated throughout the world is commendable.

Yet there are other places of need and suffering. Places that don’t get in the news, or get forgotten as soon as the next media story comes up.

For these smaller, less “famous” places I’d like to set up a challenge. How much goodwill can be generated in 21 days?

The challenge will begin June 1st and last for exactly 3 weeks.

If you know of a small project that you could contribute to, then feel free to generate money, goods or any other kind of support for this project.

However, this challenge is being made with a particular project in mind.

The English Teachers Association of Switzerland (ETAS) is currently supporting the Matopo Primary School project ( I’ve been trying to support it as well through my blogging, but feel this just isn’t enough – thus the challenge.

For Swiss teachers and any others willing to join in, here is what you can do:

Primary schools – start a collection of school materials (they need everything!). What can be found around the homes of the kids in the school? What are neighbours willing to donate?

The class can then write a letter to the school and say something about themselves and their work.

Remember that materials should be in good condition, especially considering that getting the materials down is very expensive and so shouldn’t have to land in the garbage.

Business classes –If you are working in a company, the learners can present the case to the person(s) in charge and make a suggestion for a possible donation (a good one is to pay for part of the shipping!) Again, include a letter to the school, giving them your support.

Adult classes – You could write letters to different firms requesting donations with a description of the project and what is needed.

Send us your statements in a form of a comment to this post and how much you hope to achieve, and these will be added to the Matopo primary school blog and followed by the etasblog.

Please let us know if you are willing to take the 21 day challenge!

Thank you

Illya and Cindy

Saturday, May 17, 2008


News from Zimbabwe

ETAS Teacher-to-Teacher project 2007-8, Matopo Primary School

It was with a keen sense of anticipation that I awaited news of the election results in Zimbabwe on March 29. If ever a country was in need of a change, it is Zimbabwe, and all the signs seemed to be pointing towards that.

The first reports even seemed encouraging, but my cautious optimism soon began to fade as events unfolded, taking bewildering and terrifying twists and turns as days went by without an official announcement. My mood shifted from dismay to despair.

Due to deadline constraints I am writing this update of the Teacher-to-Teacher project at Matopo Primary School in mid-April, so by the time you are reading this who knows where things will stand. At the moment, however, the situation doesn’t look good at all and I fear that the current impasse will lead to even further deterioration of the quality of life in Zimbabwe. In any case, whatever finally happens, Matopo Primary School will be in need of our help and support more than ever before.

Here are some current facts and figures about Zimbabwe gleaned from press accounts (The Guardian, The Economist, and The Zimbabwe Independent) as well as conversations and e-mails I had with Denis and Sandy Paul, our on-the-spot “go-betweens” on the Matopo Primary School project, as well as Patson Mpofu, the Deputy Headmaster of Matopo Primary School:

  • Half the population of Zimbabwe lives on 50p a day.
  • The unemployment figure is 80%; even those lucky few who still have jobs are paid a miserable wage.
  • Electricity and water supplies are unreliable, telephone connections are intermittent, open sewers are widespread, and the number of Aids orphans is multiplying daily.
  • Dealing with cash is “like a torrid game of pass the parcel…Everyone wants it but then unloads it as quickly as possible in exchange for something worth having…” For example, a street hawker sells cooking oil, (5 tablespoons at a time), then gets rid of the money as soon as she can by buying two eggs.
  • The death rate for children under five has almost doubled over the past decade; so has the number of women dying in childbirth because so many women are giving birth at home as they can no longer afford hospital charges. Medicines and doctors are simply unavailable for most people.
  • The current regime’s “land reform” has led to massive drops in production, sparking the collapse of the country’s agriculture-based economy. Farms are lying idle in the hands of corrupt politicians.
  • The GDP has shrunk annually and is now 40% lower than in 1999.
  • Serious food shortages have led to starvation and a third of the 13 million population now need food aid (which is controlled by the government). Malnutrition kills thousands every month.
  • Inflation cannot be seriously measured any longer—the current figure is 150,000%. A newly-issued 500 million dollar bill will do nothing to correct this.
  • Zimbabwe has the lowest life expectancy in the world: 37 for men and 34 for women.

If an election run-off does take place, there are serious doubts about how fair it would be, as Mr Mugabe will postpone it as long as he can in order to “give his party time to flex its muscle and re-establish control over voters, especially in the countryside…heavy-handed violence or massive fraud look like the only things that could now keep Mr Mugabe in power.”

An article from The Zimbabwe Independent, “Mugabe’s government gives Education a Bad Name”, details how bad things have become in the country’s education system, which was once the best in sub-Saharan Africa. “Impoverished teachers (who) last year were earning less than vegetable vendors and bus conductors are now ranked in the same category with poor farm workers and prostitutes…rural schools are the hardest hit…the education sector teeters on the brink of collapse…”

From Patson Mpofu I also heard that “things are bad in schools as teachers are on strike and not at work…schools have become meeting places for the kids since teachers are not there…(but at) Matopo we are at work and our focus is to help the pupils though things are tough and the regime clings on to power…”

I think it would not be exaggerating to say that Matopo Primary School has been able to survive the worst of the devastation because of YOU—ETAS members who have supported our project.

In February this year ETAS funded 62 boys uniforms and bought a further 200 text books. Planned now is to buy cement to finish the toilets, and a “good-bye” gift for Mr Moyo, who after 30 years as a teacher at Matopo Primary School will be retiring this year. Further ideas include paying school fees for the neediest pupils as well as more refurbishment for the most dilapidated school rooms.

Illya Arnet-Clark, our Learning Technologies SIG Co-ordinator, and Tania Erzinger, our Young Learners SIG Co-ordinator, together with a student of mine, Sabrina Fasano, have also begun collecting paper, books, pens, pencils and other school materials which will be sent to the school. If you would like to participate in this drive, please contact Illya, Tania or me—we’d all be grateful.

The SIG Day on September 20th in Baden will be another chance to find out more about the Teacher-to-Teacher project in Zimbabwe. I will be giving a short presentation about the Teachers Workshop Day I ran last October, and, I hope (!), about the one which will take place this year.

It all doesn’t really sound like much, by our standards. But these “small improvements” mean a great deal to the children, families and teachers at Matopo. They show, first of all, that somebody out there cares enough to give them a chance to help themselves. Thank you, ETAS members.

Cindy Hauert

Monday, April 28, 2008

in limbo

We were so hopeful--only to have those hopes dashed as the current government refuses to acknowledge defeat.
Patson Mpofu, the Deputy Headmaster of Matopo, emailed me a couple of days ago. He says that although most of the violence is concentrated in regions away from Matopo, their main problem is getting food. He had gone, like thousands of others, to South Africa to pick up basics such as corn meal, cooking oil, and vegetables as these things are totally unavailable in Zimbabwe now.
On a more positive note, he said that although many schools have closed or become "meeting points for children" due to the mass exodus of teachers, he plans to open Matopo today. I am convinced that he and the teachers at Matopo have not given up, in part because they have our support.
So let's keep that up, and let them know that we have not forgotten them!


Tuesday, March 11, 2008


As many of you may kn0w, there will be elections held in Zimbabwe at the end of this month---we are all waiting with baited breath to see if the opposition will make a stand.

In the meantime, things are not improving--there is 100,000% inflation, and even if people had any money, there is nothing to drugs at the hospitals, no food in the shops.

On a more optimistic note, the English Teachers Association of Switzerland has been able to buy some more books for Matopo Primary School. I am happy kind of sad about this, because I have the feeling the kids need food more than books at this point.

Read the article from The Guardian to get an idea about what it's like to live in Zimbabwe now.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Divide and Conquer


not looking good...

Take a look at the latest article from The Economist about Zimbabwe. It isn't looking good for our friends there...

But I refuse to give up hope, and I hope you will join me in supporting Matopo Primary School, whether in thought or deed!

I don't have any news, as communication is terribly difficult at the moment. Patson cannot send emails unless he gets a ride into town. I'm just hoping they are managing to hold on.


Saturday, February 9, 2008

thank you for your words of encouragement!

I've been in touch with Verity, the South African woman whose blog is linked below. She's been so kind and encouraging, and I'm looking forward to keeping in contact with her about our experiences in Zimbabwe.

I've also received warm words from Jeb, one of the makers of the wonderful video about Zimbabwe which appears as well on this blog. If you haven't seen it yet, I recommend taking a few moments to have a look.

It's so fantastic to be able to reach people this way--I can't thank you enough!

News from Zimbabwe on the other hand is far from hopeful--everybody is waiting in trepidation for the outcome of the March elections.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Another Zimbabwe Blog

My attention was just called to a blog from a lady (South African) teaching in Zimbabwe.
international nomad
She shows in her posts the daily life and problems she confronts.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


This video really captures the spirit of Zimbabwe--the desperate conditions as well as the eternal hope that I always feel when I'm there.
Things will be heating up soon as the elections in March approach.
Inflation is now so high that it can't be measured anymore, particulary as there is nothing to buy in the shops.

I and my friends at Matopo Primary School are so grateful for the help ETAS has provided so far--and for whatever support readers of this blog can offer, thank you so much.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Changes- going from bad to worse

Despite the terrible condition of things in Zimbabwe, I'd like to share a video of hope. You too can make a difference!

Monday, January 28, 2008

worse and worse

In Zimbabwe, police tear-gassed hundreds of protesters in Harare after they held a rally in a football stadium. They were demonstrating mainly against the parlous state of the economy; inflation is now thought to be over 50,000%, but the government has stopped counting. (from the Economist on-line, 24.01.08

As you can see, the news gets worse and worse...there have even been rumours of a civil war. As much as I would like to see the back of Mugabe, a war would certainly affect our friends at Matopo in the worst possible way.

I hope you will all join me in continuing our support for Matopo--they need it more than ever!

Monday, January 14, 2008

ETAS AGM in Lugano

Thank you to all of the ETAS members who bought raffle tickets at the AGM in Lugano on January 12-13--we raised over CHF 1,600.-- which will help to buy text books, school uniforms for the neediest pupils, and even some basic foodstuffs.
Things are set to get even more miserable in Zimbabwe. The Economist reported that it is the fastest shrinking economy in the world! But thanks to our support, the teachers at Matopo Primary School see a small ray of hope, enough to keep several of them from leaving the country. Seeing that kind of courage, I feel we MUST go on helping.

Please feel free to place your comments, no matter how brief, and a few words of moral support!


Thursday, January 3, 2008

Happy New Year?

Most of us think of the new year with optimism and as a new start. I am not so positive about Zimbabwe, unfortunately.

Mr Patson Mpofu recently sent me an email, though, where he said: "We will never surrender Zimbabwe...we will never give up on our children's future..."

With these words he gave me heart to keep trying to help Zimbabwe's children, despite the odds.

If you would like to help with financial support, or with donations of materials, please get in touch with me! Any small help is very welcome and much appreciated.