Zimbabwe’s once formidable education system has been hit hard by spending cuts and economic contractions in the 21st century. Yet the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s global partners in Zimbabwe maintain a strong commitment to education as a mechanism for tackling poverty and enabling all Zimbabweans to know life in fullness.
Soon after the country’s independence in 1980, the Harare Synod of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) turned most of its schools over to the government, retaining only one, a primary school at Nyabira, as a church-run institution. Today, Nyabira is a dynamic school that has grown to serve more than 1,000 pupils from preschool to seventh grade.
At the same time, the social and economic upheavals in Zimbabwe since 2000 have led the church to see education as an increasingly important area of ministry. In 2014, the CCAP Harare Synod started a high school, Rock Haven Academy, at its Lay Training Center just outside of Harare. The school caters to area residents, including families who were evicted from neighboring farms during waves of land seizures.
Within a year, enrollment grew from 50 to 110. Learners use the Training Center’s facilities or meet outside when the center is in use. To secure government support, the school must meet certain requirements—including dedicated classrooms, administrative offices and restrooms. So, with the help of area residents, the CCAP is building four classrooms, expected to accommodate up to 200 pupils. Rev. Libias Boloma, the general secretary of the CCAP Harare Synod, said the school is a particular asset for girls. When school is far away, he said, “many parents would opt to keep their girls at home rather than to expose them to any danger . . . walking so far alone in the bush.”
Even so, the school’s principal, Girson Dzonzi, says the learners “walk an average of 10 kilometers every day, to and from school,” setting off at 6 a.m. The teachers work long hours for just a “token” income. Although the school charges nominal fees of $20 per month, only about 10 percent of the students can afford to pay.
The school strives to provide quality education and to impart Christian values of honesty and perseverance. And the CCAP is working to provide further educational opportunities through its congregations, a number of which either operate community schools or host private schools.
The Presbytery of Zimbabwe of the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (UPCSA), the PC(USA)’s other global partner in Zimbabwe, has even more extensive involvement in education. The church operates 11 primary and secondary schools, including one of the newest, a secondary school at Mnondu. Now in its third year, the school’s 135 pupils share facilities with the primary school that the church has operated on the site since 1946. A new classroom block stands completed up to the tops of the windows, awaiting funds for trusses to support the roof.
The UPCSA’s priority has not been completing the classrooms, but rather meeting the community’s more urgent need for clean drinking water. The church recently installed a solar-powered pump and a storage tank to provide safe drinking water for the community. With a reliable water supply, the school can also look into developing boarding facilities for students who are walking more than 10 kilometers to attend daily classes.
The PC(USA) shares our Zimbabwean partners’ commitment to education as a key factor in addressing the root causes of poverty in southern Africa. As we accompany our partners in these efforts, we seek not only to mobilize resources for basic educational needs, but also to promote creative and effective teaching methods, to encourage measures that create a safe and healthy learning environment, and to foster holistic approaches that also address students’ and teachers’ needs for water, food and shelter.
Frank Dimmock, Catalyst Presbyterian World Mission
Today’s Focus: Zimbabwe
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PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray
Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.”
John 14:23–29 (NIV)