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.

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?