George Maponga in Masvingo
In the north-western fringes of Masvingo’s plush Rhodene suburb is a fledgling complex that is nestled on 8,5 hectares.
The lush green lawn surrounding various edifices that constitute this picturesque complex makes it a unique spectacle along Lundi Drive, the street that anchors Rhodene suburb and is a prelude to the adjacent Mangwandi Hills.
On this small piece of land is a dream that is slowly transforming into reality.
A new and modern high school which opened its doors to an inaugural group of 240 pioneers from Forms 1 to 6 in January this year.
Junior High School, the new educational pride of Masvingo, flung open its doors early this year easing worries of restless parents and guardians in Masvingo and beyond looking for relief in the perennial struggle for school places.
The school is, however, no ordinary one because this new kid on the block in the ancient city offers a unique educational menu inspired by the culinary skills of the mastermind of the whole project, Mr Noah Marima.
Mr Marima grew up yearning to be a conveyor belt of a complete 21st century student prepared to stand any test in the hustle of today’s competitive world.
Junior High School does not only offer pure sciences; biology, chemistry and physics to students from the foundation at Form 1, the institution guarantees that upon completing school every learner will be a certified driver.
This means every student, upon completion of studies, would have acquired a valid driver’s licence. Junior High is one of the companies, including Junior Driving School, that fall under Marima Holdings where 41-year-old Mr Marima is the founding executive director.
The school creates room for learners to do driving lessons at Junior Driving School.
While the school was founded this year, the driving school franchise opened its doors in 2012. Other companies under Marima Holdings are, Junior Microfinance (founded 2016), Junior Security Services (2018) and Junior Construction (2021). Marima Holdings also owns the towering Junior Complex on the northern edges of the Masvingo Central Business District.
The four-storey complex was commissioned in 2021 and eminent companies snapped up office space at the high rise edifice that is now one of the standout structures in the ancient city’s skyline. It is the Junior High School that appears to have firmly positioned itself as the Marima Holdings’ flagship with the group’s education portfolio set to be expanded with the impending completion of Junior Primary School. The school is billed to open its doors in January next year.
“We are building Junior Primary School just next to the high school and the former will open its doors next year. Unlike the high school that caters for both boarders and day scholars, the new primary school will start as exclusively a day school,” said Mr Marima.
“We always respond to our community and clients and if there is demand for the primary school to accommodate both boarders and day scholars then we have no choice but to do so. We are here to serve our community.”
The elite Junior High School has a teacher to student ratio of 1 to between 20 to 24 students and its learners sit for Cambridge examinations.
“One of the reasons why we decided to open a school was motivated by challenges faced by parents and guardians to secure places for their children in Masvingo City.
“We thought that as Marima Holdings we could make our own contribution by building a unique school that stands somewhere in the middle between the elite ones dotted around Masvingo like Kyle College and ordinary council, church or Government-run schools,” he said.
Mr Marima says boarders at Junior High pay US$1400 termly while day scholars fork half that amount which he says is affordable to the growing band of middle income earners looking for niche schools that mould a 21st century-compliant student.
“By the time a student completes their Form 4 or Form 6 they would have acquired a driver’s licence.
“Both the learner’s licence and the driver’s licence fees are included in the school fees that students pay, “ he said.
Junior High School, with its staff complement of 18 teachers including the head and the deputy, is led by veteran Masvingo educationist Mrs Shelly Makausi who retired from Government service a couple of years.
Since the school opened its doors in January this year scores of students have already been certified as drivers in class 4.
According to Mr Marima his growing business is a dividend of hardwork and his quest to continuously advance his education.
“All I can say is that hardwork pays; one should also have discipline. Upgrading one’s education is very important that is why I continue to further my education while also providing education for the community through Junior High School.
“ Infact I drew lessons from some of my studies in Economics to conceive the idea of creating business for one of our companies, Junior Driving School, by taking advantage of the opening of Junior High School. We call this ‘integration’. There is forward and backward integration in economics,” he said.
Masvingo mechanic, Mr Itai Hwenjere said the growth of Marima Holdings was a boon for education in the ancient city.
“Mr Marima’s projects have changed the socio-economic face of Masvingo especially through the driving school and the new school that he recently opened which offers top quality education schools,” said Mr Hwenjere.
A Mucheke resident Mrs Clara Vuraiso said besides creating employment and the rapid expansion of various business portfolio, Marima Holdings was having a positive effect on various businesses in the ancient city.
“Marima Holdings has brought relief to our city especially the driving school and the newly minted Junior High School because there was a shortage of secondary school places. Masvingo has only five secondary schools before the construction of Rujeko High School that is not yet fully-functional so Junior High School has made a very huge impact,” she said.
Masvingo businessman Mr Ignatius Mazambani who singled out Junior High School as a game-changer in the city’s educational matrix said the facility was premised on modern architecture coupled with sound administrative practices that undergird a bullish corporate.
“The teaching culture at the new school promises a new epoch in Masvingo City’s educational landscape considering the deep experience of all teaching staff. Another bigger plus for the school (Junior High) is that it is situated close to the Masvingo CBD so no hustles with access, “noted Mr Mazambani.
Mrs Makausi noted that the school was offering an internationally recognised Cambridge curriculum enabling graduates to be internationally accepted.
“In addition to offering French as a foreign language we are partnering with Deutsch – Connect to expose our learners to opportunities in Germany, “she said.
“On international university placements we are working with CIALFO (Singapore based Company which facilitates University students’ placements internationally).”
“ We are also using technology-based teaching,” added Mrs Makausi.
The soft-spoken businessman, who is a church elder at ZAOGA in Masvingo worked for two years as temporary teacher in Bikita but is today a director of a multi business worth tens of millions of dollars.
He is currently studying towards a PHD in Business Management.
So passionate about education is Mr Marima that after he worked as a temporary teacher at Chirima High School in Bikita, he enrolled at the Great Zimbabwe University where he successfully completed an Honours Degree in Economics. Before becoming a temporary teacher, he had acquired a Diploma in Accounting and Business Management.
After his teaching stint at Chirima High Mr Marima left the country for Botswana in 2007 and returned to found a flourishing cross-border kombi business in the city in 2009.
When he opened Marima Tours transport company Mr Marima simultaneously studied towards his first degree which he completed after getting married to Charity in 2010.
Mr Marima’s quest to further his education saw him successfully completing his Masters in Financial Economics as a precursor to the PHD he is currently doing.
He said his wife had been a pillar of strength and it was through her support that he managed to establish such a business.
Marima Holdings’s workforce has grown exponentially from just 15 employees in 2009 when he founded Marima Tours to the current over 140 and he believes the sky is the limit for his firm. Mr Marima applauded Government for introducing devolution which was positively impacting on communities.
A teetotaller, Mr Marima believes that he inherited his business acumen from his mother who used to run grocery shops in his rural home in Bikita. Born in Nyahunda, Bikita, Mr Marima attended Chitenderano Primary school and attended Tagona Secondary school before putting the curtain down at Pamushana High School where he did his Advanced level studies.
After leaving Pamushana and completing his Diploma in Accounting, life was to become a rollercoaster for the businessman whose ingenuity is propelling Marima Holdings to new levels with Junior High School leading the charge into what promises to be an even glorious future.