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