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.

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