I’m writing today with an update on a recent meeting with Tariro students and guardians, held on April 23rd in the neighborhood of Epworth. The active involvement of both students and guardians in Tariro’s programs is a critical part of our project, enabling us to better recognize and meet the challenges facing our students, and giving our work depth and meaning from a truly community-based perspective. Today, I want to give you a glimpse into how students and guardians are actively involved in influencing our work.
During this recent meeting, Tariro guardians in Epworth expressed how grateful they are for the financial support provided by Tariro, and for all of the extra-curricular activities we offer to students. Many of the guardians actually jumped to their feet to sing songs praising Tariro’s work and encouraging us to continue with the support we offer to the orphaned children in their care.
Guardians also suggested improvements we could make to best help the students, identifying one particularly major concern that has been affecting the Epworth girls. This concern is the distance the girls have been walking to attend school, which for some of them totals two hours per day to get to school and back home. Because of this long walk, a few girls have been missing early morning classes. Students additionally observed that this problem would be even more difficult during the coming winter months, when it is cold and gets dark quickly. As the girls in Epworth do not have electricity, the long walk to school also makes studying after school a big challenge.
When teaching at many public schools was suspended due to an extended teacher strike and administrative problems in 2008, Tariro transferred Epworth girls to Young Africa Academy, a private college where teaching continued as normal. By transferring students to YAA, we were able to maintain instruction for our students even in the very challenging educational and social conditions facing students in Zimbabwe during the last few years. However, this decision came with a trade-off, as the transfer meant a much longer walk to school for many of our students.
At our most recent meeting in Epworth, and after discussing the different options for the girls, we decided in consultation with the guardians that it is time to transfer the students back to a nearby public school, Domboramwari, which is a ten-minute walk from most of their homes. All parents and students agreed that this was a potential solution considering the improvements made in the public sector schools system during the past year. The headmaster at Domboramwari graciously agreed to enroll the girls in the middle of the year, and we are happy to report that all of our Epworth secondary school students are now attending lessons at Domboramwari. As the school fees are roughly similar at both schools, we incurred no significant costs in making this transfer. I’m pleased that Tariro’s small size and flexibility makes it possible for us to respond quickly and effectively to the changing social, economic, and educational circumstances in Zimbabwe, in order to give our students the best possible chance of achieving their educational goals.
Our Epworth students face many challenges as they do their best to achieve academically despite the lack of electricity and running water in their homes, and given the very basic state of the schools they are able to access. Thank you for supporting our work with these extremely vulnerable young women, for whom Tariro’s assistance means all the difference in their ability to attend school.
I’ll be traveling back home to the US soon, so look for one or two final posts on the blog while I’m still “in the field” over the next few weeks. And if you would be interested in having me speak on my experiences in Zimbabwe during the month of June at your school, church, community center, or whatever, please contact me! I would love to bring photos and talk about my work in person in your community.