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, October 14, 2011

Visit August 2011

Teacher-to-Teacher Project, Matopo, Zimbabwe, by Cindy Hauert

Zimbabwe customs officials just don’t seem to like tourists. We had to use all of our wits, and even cheat a little (don’t ask) to finally get across the border from South Africa to Zimbabwe…but we made it. As we wended our way along the dusty, pot-holed road towards Matopo, it was lovely sunny weather and we spotted a few vervet monkeys playing on the smooth rounded high rocks that are typical of the region. I was really looking forward to the 6th annual Teachers’ Workshop Day, and seeing the progress the seven schools had made since our last trip.

Just as we rounded a curve, whom should we spot but our partners on the ground in the project, Norma and Chris Ferguson. They were showing some American volunteers around the area and all of us were overjoyed at the chance encounter. We stopped right away, took our folding camp chairs out of the Land Rover and settled in for a nice chat and a snack. Later that afternoon, Norma and two of the volunteers helped me pack the bags for the big event on Saturday.

Unfortunately the warm spell was short-lived, and the next day winter came back with a vengeance. But the atmosphere for the workshop was warmed by the good cheer and enthusiasm of the 62 teachers who came to take part in the day’s activities. The program this year focused on fluency vs. accuracy, a new concept to most of the teachers who tend to stick to the tried-and-true rote learning methods of days of yore. I think everybody came away with a new understanding of how a mix of types of activities can liven up their classes and make learning more fun. We also tried out some TPR (Total Physical Response) games that soon had everyone laughing and moving around the large room. Each primary school in the project cluster received a copy of Graham Workman’s book, “TPR for Primary English”, which he kindly donated for the event.

We were incredibly busy during the rest of our stay, meeting with the school Heads, touring all of the schools to admire newly painted blackboards and walls, and brainstorming ideas for the project next year. We also took a look at the proposed site of a girls’ dormitory we are hoping to build at Silobi Secondary School. As we stood in the sun (but shivered in a freezing wind), we were taken aback to spot a Cape Cobra slithering through the brush just in front of our feet! We were assured that once the building started the snake population would move elsewhere!

Everyone is tremendously excited about the new ETAS initiative, “send-a-girl-to-secondary-school”. The Heads of the 6 primary schools have already started working on details about how the girls will be chosen. We hope to be able to collect enough funds to send 10 girls starting in 2012. At a cost of US$600.00 per girl per year, that means we need a total of US$18,000.00 (each girl must be assured of 3 years). At the time of writing, we’ve collected US$13,000.00. This amount includes a record-breaking raffle intake at the SIG Day in Zug, so we still have a way to go to reach our goal. Please contact me if you are interested in helping.

A fascinating book I’ve been reading, “Half the Sky: turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide”, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, is about fighting poverty in developing countries. The title refers to a Chinese proverb: “Women hold up half the sky”. The book has this to say about girls’ education: “One study after another has shown that educating girls is one of the most effective ways to fight poverty.” We can’t do anything about Mugabe and his cronies’ plundering of the country’s resources, but we can make sure that at least 10 girls have the chance to escape the cycle of poverty that will be their fate without further education.

I hope you will join us in giving ten girls a chance to hold up half the sky.

Cindy Hauert

Thursday, January 27, 2011

send a girl to secondary school initiative

It’s been an incredible year! As you all probably know, my husband Peter and I were in Zimbabwe last July to work on our project, visiting all of the schools, officially opening the new toilets which ETAS funds built at Matopo Primary School, and running the annual, ever-popular Teachers’ Workshop Day. I hope you have had time to read my article in the latest ETAS Journal about our doings. If so, you will also know that our trip almost had a disastrous end—Peter contracted a deadly form of malaria during our holiday trip to the Zambezi River and shortly after our return to Switzerland he collapsed and had to be rushed to hospital. He very nearly died. I’m very happy to tell you that he has recovered now and is eager to start planning our next trip!

The Federer parents, Lynette and Robbie, and Janine Händel, the new CEO of the Federer Foundation, visited the project personally in October 2010. They came back full of praise (and a few criticisms!) for what we have accomplished, and with big ideas about how we should proceed in the future. When I met with Janine in November, she particularly stressed the importance of supporting the teachers in their training and development. You can imagine how glad I was to hear this message—it has been my dearest dream from the start! This is truly the meaning of the ETAS Teacher-to-Teacher project.

To that end, for 2011 we have allocated a large part of the Federer Foundation budget towards reaching this goal by hiring Chris Fergusson, a semi-retired teacher who lives in the area and has been helping his wife, Norma, with her duties as a volunteer partner in our project from the beginning. Norma is responsible for coordinating the orders the schools place for materials and she has also helped to organize workshops aimed at child development programmes and girls’ empowerment training camps. This “power pair” will be our partners on the ground for 2011.

Chris will be giving regular workshops for the Matopo teachers as well as developing various programmes to support, observe and measure their progress. The goal is not to impose our “western” methods or approaches in teaching, but rather to “empower” the teachers in their development. I have big expectations of Chris and he is very enthusiastic, so I am confident that we will make progress.

So because teacher training and development will be getting a big shot in the arm in the coming year, I started thinking about what could be the next project for ETAS to tackle. As I was mulling this over, an ETAS member, Linda Walsh, wrote to me about an idea her 13-year-old daughter had…Sinéad had heard about our project from her mother and wanted to do something to help. Do you know what she and her friend Sara did? They baked cupcakes! Hundreds of them…and sold them at the entrance to their school before Christmas…and earned CHF800.00 for our project!

I was so thrilled and overwhelmed by these girls’ efforts that an idea I’d had on the back burner suddenly became urgent. I’m calling it the “Send-a-girl-to-secondary-school” project, and I’ll be launching it at the AGM in January, where Janine Händel will also be giving a presentation about the Roger Federer Foundation. Sinéad and Sara, as young women reaching out to children far away from where they live, will serve as the impulse behind this exciting new direction I want to take.

Girls in Zimbabwe often don’t get the chance to continue their education, for a number of reasons. Although the Ndebele culture of Matabeleland (southern Zimbabwe) is not particularly discriminatory towards the female sex—many women have important positions in education and government—in the poorest regions, of which Matopo is one, things are not so easy. Girls who have only one parent, or are orphans, are especially at risk of being shut out of further education. The Federer Foundation recognizes this problem and is very keen on supporting girls’ empowerment, so this new ETAS initiative dovetails nicely with our common goals.
On our visits to Matopo over the years, I have met quite a few worthy young ladies and regretted that many of them will never have the chance to reach their potential. This portrait of Princess, a girl I met on our trip last year, is an example of a very talented and ambitious person whose gifts may be wasted for lack of funds. Although primary school in Zimbabwe is obligatory and free, secondary school is usually a boarding situation as the distances are too great for girls to walk every day (10 kilometres or more). And that costs something.

Secondary school in Zimbabwe consists of 3 years, at a cost of (boarding) US$600.00 per year. Would you be willing to make a commitment to a girl’s education, or to making a donation towards her future?