Our community project is based at Intabayengwe Village, located 14km from Victoria Falls. The communities in this area were relocated in the colonial era from the fertile lands of the Midlands and Matabeleland South during the creation of farms by the settlers. Relocated into the poor unfertile Kalahari sandveld of Matabeleland North around Victoria Falls the only option for the communities was cattle raising and minimal subsistence farming. Predictably the cattle became easy prey of common predators like lion and hyena and the crops were – and still are – destroyed by elephants. For many years the Government and NGOs have provided food handouts, leading to a culture of dependency.
The situation has left the communities vulnerable and brought about human / wildlife conflict. To get an education the children had to walk a long distance to get to the nearest schools, exposing them to the risk of animal attacks. This discouraged families from sending kids to school. Often children also dropped out of school in order to assist parents with household chores. A pervasive feeling of hopelessness, lethargy and distrust has been passed from generation to generation.
Our ambition is to change the spirit of the community from despair and defeatism to hope and opportunity. A challenging aim but with small steps we are already seeing a huge difference.
Although the community is situated relatively close to the Zambezi River, due to the steepness of the gorges it is not possible to collect water from the River. A mains water supply runs along the road from Victoria Falls to the airport and one or two members of the community had connected their homes and were charging for water.
One of our early objectives was the provision of a water supply to the school and wider community. Thanks to an extremely generous donation we were able to accomplish this, with the community digging a 3km trench for the supply pipe. A number of families have connected their homes to the new water supply, transforming their lives.
Another generous donation has provided a bore hole a kilometre from the school for use by both the community and the school.
Lesedi Primary School
Benson started by building his home in the village in order to integrate with the community and gain their trust. At the same time he financed and built a very basic pre-school which opened in January 2014. The school started with just a handful of kids and by the end of the first term the total count was 30 plus eager children. Each family is asked to contribute a nominal school fee, which is used to provide all the kids with a hot meal each day.
Following on from the success of the pre-school, we are now offering Grade 1 and Grade 2 education with plans to add a new grade each year until we are able to provide Grade 1 – 7. With the generous assistance of donations from supporters we were able to construct a double classroom block in 2015 to meet official regulations. The Rotary Club kindly donated another classroom for our pre-school. In May 2016 Lesedi Primary School received official recognition as a registered school by the Ministry of Education.
In addition to regular school classes, the original pre-school building is now used for adult literacy classes. One of our students has just passed his Grade 7 examinations at the age of 63 years. Two years earlier he wasn’t able to read or write.
The community has played an important role in the school project, especially the traditional leaders. We have been very fortunate to secure the assistance of local retired headmaster, Mr Ndebele, who has over 35 years’ experience in running schools. Our teachers are Mrs Mutori (Grade 2), Miss Sibanda (Grade 1 & Computer studies), Mrs Mpofu and Miss Ngwenya (Pre-School). As we are now officially recognised as a privately owned government assisted school, the education department will soon be allocating us some teachers. We also have the services of a school cook/caretaker.
The community has appointed a school advisory council to oversee the day to day running of the school. The council comprises of five village elders plus the Headmaster. This is overseen by a school Board of Directors comprising Benson Siyawareva, the manager of the Vic Falls branch of Barclays bank, Mr Hora, plus Mr Ndebele.
School tuition fees are set at US$10 per child per term (no charge for pre-school) plus there is another charge of US$8 per child per month to cover the cost of providing a hot meal to all the students each day. The school also receives income as and when there are village/school tours.
We now have almost 100 pupils at the school, with more to join in January 2017 when we start teaching Grade 3.
Future Plans and “Wish List”
Our immediate projects are to build a teachers’ house. One of the conditions set by the Department of Education is that we build accommodation for the teachers they will be supplying. We also need to construct a secure fence around the school grounds. A kitchen structure is urgently needed as the facilities for preparing meals to feed 100+ children at lunchtime are not sufficient.
A second double classroom block will be needed by January 2017, which is when we introduce Grade 3. We also aim to build a separate building to house a medical clinic, which would then be staffed and equipped by the Ministry of Health.
Longer term we plan to introduce classes for Special Needs students and will require additional land for the school.