Hope at last

The programme titled Integrated Approaches to HIV and Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Prevention through Promoting Gender Transformation (GT) within Zimbabwe, funded by Irish Aid through SAfAIDS, has brought hope and relief to the vulnerable community of Siganda in Bubi District. The community has a large number of children who have dropped out of school due to failure to pay school fees and levies. These dropouts’ future looked bleak until the programme, which has presented itself as a ray of hope came on board.

This programme targeted Siganda community because of the following issues: The ward is about 160km from the city of Bulawayo. Siganda settlement is as old as the times of King Lobengula, the last king of the Ndebele tribe. It is situated next to Nkosikazi, an area named after Nkosikazi Lozikeyi who was King Lobengula’s wife and used to stay there; she was buried in that area and her grave is now a tourist attraction. Siganda Primary School is one of the oldest schools in Bubi District. It was established in 1947 and it used to command the highest enrolments in the district as it is located in a well-populated area.

Siganda Primary School has been for some time affected by significant school dropout rates and low percentages of students that transition to secondary school. The enrolment has over the last three years dropped from 700 children in 2014 to 550 in 2017. Only 30 out of 60 pupils that sat for their grade 7 exams in 2016 transitioned to form one early this year, a clear indication that at least 50% of of them did not proceed to form one.

Poverty has been cited as one of the major reasons why most children in this community are failing to proceed to form one. Many parents have no other source of income as they rely on farming, and the negative impact of perennial droughts has eroded the livelihoods of the majority of families in the district. The adverse economic climate that the country has been experiencing over the past years has also taken a toll on the villagers. These factors have thus resulted in parents failing to pay school fees for their children, and the greatest impact is being felt by the school children because dropping out of school exposes children to a myriad of abuses and challenges. The girl child is more prone as she is easily married off at a young age or sent to well to do families to do menial jobs.

The Irish Aid programme employed a sustainable model to assist the underprivileged children since the available funds amounted to only $400. A discussion on what kind of a project could be sustainable took place and there was agreement that a tuck shop be tried out. The school development committee (SDC) was engaged and together with the teachers they deliberated over the project and subsequently identified and selected a few teachers who showed some traits of business expertise to spearhead the project. The community members were informed about the project and its objective at a school meeting and were urged to support the project once it took off. Preparations for the take-off of the project were done by the SDC as well as the teachers, resulting in Bekezela HBC releasing the funds to them. The tuck shop started trading in September 2016 and the school conducted its first stock take that same month.

The community members supported the project. Studying the cash flow, the project committee agreed to support 15 children with school fees. An agreement was drawn up and the vulnerable children to benefit from the project were identified through the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) selection committee. By the end of the school term, the tuck shop had raised a profit of $210, which was used to pay the school fees and levies for the 15 children. The children, whose levies and fees were paid for will be assisted until they transition to secondary schools. Before the programme these children were in dire need of assistance as their parents and guardians owed the school and were giving up on their children’s education.

The tuck shop committee led by the Guidance and Counselling teacher Mr Mvikeli Ndlovu started making payments for levies for first term 2017 during the first week of March 2017. The future now looks brighter for the beneficiaries as the tuck shop is realising profits. The children are happy to be retained in school and promise to do their best to improve their lives. Mr Donga the ward councillor is passionate about the project and takes time to give assistance to the tuck shop committee and also monitor the progress of the project.

The involvement of the school, the local leadership together with technical backstopping from Bekezela and SAfAIDS has resulted in this positive development at Siganda. Progress has been noted and children who would have been lost are now back in school.

Leave a Reply