Low cost boarding facilities for Umzingwane

Source: The Chronicle – Breaking news

Low cost boarding facilities for Umzingwane 
Sihlengeni High School sustainable and affordable boarding facility

Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu , sukulwenkosi.dube@chronicle.co.zw

GOVERNMENT has joined hands with partners to construct low-cost boarding facilities at Sihlengeni High and Bayethe Secondary Schools in Umzingwane District, Matabeleland South Province, as part of efforts to bridge the learning infrastructure gap and reduce distances travelled by learners.

The sustainable and affordable boarding facilities model has brought relief to the community, whose children used to walk nearly 20km to school.

The project is supported by the Global Fund through the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP), with the National Aids Council and Plan International as implementing partners.

The intervention falls under the Determined and Resilient Empowered Aids Free Mentored and Safe (Dreams) Modified programme.

Each boarding facility accommodates 32 girls and learners started using the infrastructure in January last year.

A Form  Four pupil at Sihlengeni High School, Lisa Mpofu, said staying within the boarding facility has come as a huge relief for her, as she can now fully concentrate on her studies for improved performance.

“I stay at Emagodini area, which is about 12 kilometres away. I used to wake up at 4am and do some household chores first assisting my granny.

Sihlengeni High School learner Lisa Mpofu

“I would leave home at 5am and then walk to school. I used to arrive late at school most of the time and I would miss out on some lessons, which affected my performance.

“I struggled to concentrate in class because at times I would be feeling sleepy. I would arrive home at night and then do some chores. This routine left me with little time to read. Ever since I moved to the boarding facility my performance at school has greatly improved. I’m now better placed considering that I will be sitting for my O-Level examinations this year,” said Lisa.

The learners, said at the boarding facility they have time set aside for studying, which is critical for enhanced learning.
Sharleen Williams, who is also a Form Four pupil at Sihlengeni High School, said the boarding facility has helped ensure their safety as they were exposed to artisanal miners, who were harassing them.

“We were being harassed by artisanal miners that we would meet on the way. They would chase us and order us to remove our clothes,  but luckily we would escape. We used to leave school at 4pm and arrive home at around 7pm. This made me feel unsafe and I’m glad that now  there is security,” she said.

 

Sihlengeni High School learner Sharleen Williams

 

Gugulethu Ndlovu from Bayethe Secondary School said she used to walk 17 kilometres to school and would leave home at 4:30am and return at around 8pm. She said this made her feel that attending school was a burden as often she would spend the day on an empty stomach.

“I’m enjoying school now and I look forward to every single day at school. Our school assisted us with catch up lessons because we were behind because of poor learning conditions,” said Gugulethu.

In an interview, National Aids Council Umzingwane District Aids coordinator, Mr Mduduzi Ngwenya, said the boarding facilities are expected to reduce the HIV prevalence rate among children of the school going age.

“We have the Dreams Programme, which is being implemented in all seven districts of the province. In six districts, the project is  being implemented under ZHI while in Umzingwane we have the Dreams modified programme,” he said.

“The Dreams programme, which targets adolescent girls and young women,  is a response to the high HIV rate within this age group. We realised some of the major drivers are lack of schooling and teenage pregnancies.

“Some of the girls in these two schools were failing to access schooling due to long distances and as such with our partner Plan International through funding from UNDP, we saw it fit to establish these low cost boarding facilities,” he                                                                                 said.

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