Sunday Mail Reporter
NEARLY six decades ago, a small Tonga community was forcibly removed from the Zambezi Valley by the Rhodesian government to make way for the construction of Kariba Dam.
They were settled in Malilime, a remote enclave in rural Gokwe. After relocation, they were promised all manner of amenities, from schools, clinics, running water and electricity, but they were never delivered.
For decades, villagers felt the community they call home had been forgotten.
This hot, arid and tsetse fly-infested region is clearly underdeveloped. The community has not had a school since it was relocated.
As a result, children had to walk for more than 30km to and from the nearest school — Simuchembu Primary School.
“We were removed by the colonial government from the Zambezi Valley many decades ago and relocated to this tsetse-infested area because they wanted to construct the Kariba Dam,” one of the villagers, Chipo Mandimba, told The Sunday Mail.
Through harnessing their own resources, the community built a makeshift community primary “school”. The classrooms were fashioned from pole and dagga, while learners’ benches were made of poles.
However, last week, the community opened Malilime Primary School, which is a modern learning institution with advanced facilities.
It has since enrolled its first classes.
The Africa Book Development Organisation (ABDO), a local non-profit organisation that promotes community education in marginalised rural communities, facilitated construction of the school. Funding was sourced from the Korea Hope Foundation.
“We appreciate the good work that ABDO has been doing in our community; the knowledge they gave us and the schools they are building for our children,” said Mandimba.
“When the organisation came into this community around 1998, they introduced community libraries, which had different books that taught us various skills. Later on, the libraries were reinvented to study circles where the community were grouped into groups of six and learnt different subjects.”
To date, ABDO has constructed three primary and three secondary schools and a women’s action centre in equally underdeveloped surrounding communities.
Nine solar-powered boreholes have been sunk at the schools.
Mr Dera Mkebe, the primary school headmaster, said: “Our children used to walk for about 30km to Simuchembu Primary (School).
“They were forced to start Grade One at an early age so that they could get used to travelling long distances. I am very happy with the project. Children were unable to attend school, especially during rainy season, because they could not cross Senga River. Our area is surrounded by game parks and it was not safe for the children to travel on their own because they could be attacked by dangerous animals.”
The school now requires accommodation for teachers.
ABDO founder Ms Talent Nyathi said her organisation intends to assist marginalised communities. She applauded the Malilime community for participating in the construction of the school.
“We did not build the school on our own, but together with the community. We worked together until this day,” she said during the school’s unveiling.
“At Malilime Primary, we managed to construct four classroom blocks and an administration block.”
At Madhamu Secondary School, another local learning institution, ABDO also constructed two classroom blocks and an administration building.
“My aim is to continue to help those at the periphery who are not recognised by anyone so that they have a conducive environment,” she said.
The organisation is currently working with communities in Kezi, Umzingwane, Gokwe North, Chakari, Chegutu and Chivi district.