Voices of Students & Principals

One of the remarkable aspects of the Sister School Project in Southern Africa is that students and faculty of participating schools can learn first hand the impact of their efforts. Through correspondence, photographs, and personal accounts they see and appreciate the enormity of their contributions. The first shipment to Zimbabwe contained more than 800 boxes of school supplies. The cargo included 20,000 textbooks, 10,000 children’s books, toiletries, school supplies (pens, pencils, paper, etc.), art supplies, sports equipment, sneakers, garden fencing, toys, and clothing. The comments below are taken from the minutes of a meeting of 25 principals in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, two weeks after the supplies were delivered to their schools. The shipment affected 16,000 students in 35 schools.

Student Voices:

Click on the following names of children in Zimbabwe to hear them speak to you about education and their lives.

  1. Queenearth
  2. Ocean
  3. Lisa
  4. Samuel
  5. Zibusiso
  6. Elton
  7. Primrose
  8. Lerato

More student voices can be found below. 

Siphathisiwe Marasha, 16 years old.                                                                                      “I’m Siphathisiwe Marasha. I’m 16 years old. I live in a poor family and I’m an orphan and my relatives are not able to pay my fees. In other times, we end a week eating porridge. I wish to have a good friend like you. I live at Sinkugwe Village and it is far away from school. My hobbies are watching television. I like to eat rice with chicken. Distance from home to school may be about 20 km.”

Patience Mayo, 14 years old                                                                                                      “My name is Patience Mayo. I am 14 years old, presently at Swazi High. I was born in 1990, November 16. I come from a small family of four and I am the third born, one boy and three girls. I live with my mother; my father is in South Africa. He is old so that he cannot be able to support us for a long time. I always spent a lot of my time doing household duties. I like reading novels, magazines and also listening to the radio. And I like playing netball.”

Jeffrey, Grade 2.                                                                                                                           “My name is Jeffrey. I am a boy. I am in grade 2 at Lukona Primary School. I like playing soccer after school. We are two in my family. I am the last born. I live with my mother’s sister at school. I am an orphan. I did very well this year that I passed. I don’t have a uniform or shoes. My school is not very big. It has 10 teachers and we are about 380. There are villages near my school. Some children walk between 5 and 8 km a day. I like school very much. Your friend, Jeffrey.”

African School Principals

Ms O Ndlovu, Head, Swazi Secondary School

“The number one thing I’d like to talk about is the sneakers. We gave them out to the children we thought needed them most, the ones who walked the longest distances with no shoes and could not afford them. Parents and grandparents have been coming to the school ever since to express their gratitude. One woman told a story of how the child who had received shoes had no parents. They had both passed away and the child had nothing.

Excitement around the sports equipment is also pretty high. I overhead one of the children saying “next year, I am going to play sport since there are uniforms for sport.” You find that in most cases, students were not participating in sport because they had a limited number of clothes, which they could not also afford to use for sport. So the equipment and sports clothes we received made a huge difference as well, in addition to the books.”

Mr. Bhekokuhle Dube, Mangubeni School

“When we received the books, the first thing we did was to call together the parents and the community to come and see what had arrived. The community response was overwhelming. We sorted the books and have now started a library with novels. Morale amongst the teachers is really high. They have the books that they needed. For example, we received a shipment of Shakespeare books that are a compilation of Shakespeare and include all the books that we teach in school – the Merchant of Venice, Julius Caesar… many others. Now the students can actually read the books that the teacher is talking about.”

Mr. Phathisa Moyo, Head, Lukala Primary School

“Our library has always been under-resourced. We had shelves, but no books. Now we have put our books on the shelves. Now kids can borrow books for more than school day. Previously, they had to borrow a book at the beginning of the day and return it later that same day. We have also invited parents to use the library as their resource. They are very supportive of it.”

Ms. Vivian Phahlaphahla, Head, Fatima Primary

“We received pens, fencing, pencils – enough pencils for every child in the school. The first time that this has happened. The 6th and 7th Grades got pens and rulers in addition to the pencils. We have changed our library to a bigger room. What was once our staff room for the teachers to meet and relax is now the library because it is a much bigger room. The students can now walk in at their leisure and read books at their will. We also called together the parents and they were so excited. They asked if they could come and also read books, and of course we agreed. Fatima has electricity so we are even planning to begin night classes for the parents.”

Mr. Edward Phiri, Deputy Head, Swazi Primary School

“We had a very little library. It was always open to the community, but people would stop and just look at the shelves and remark “there are no books here!”

We called the parents to come and welcome the gifts that we had received. I have never seen the library this busy. There is a lot of excitement. Parents were overjoyed and, as others have said, they were in tears. They were so happy to receive them. We also got toys. At our school we have what we call Grade Zero, where we prepare kids for school.

Our enrollment in the Grade Zero class was really down, but now we have from 15 pupils to over 80 because of the toys! But I must say, the vigor, which the kids have to read, is at an all time high. I am sure that we too and create a culture of reading in our school.”

Mr. Frank Mdlongwa, Head, Tame Primary School

“Our school is in a pretty bad state. The Grashows were shocked to see it. It is not a good sight at all. We have no desks or chairs. We also had no books at all. Not one, other than the teachers’ books and guides. Teachers are now inspired to see books. They have the tools they need to educate. One of them even commented to me, “I thought that those people were joking two years ago, but look; they did come back as they said they would.” People are very happy. It is now easier for us to ask about how the kids are doing because they have something to read. Before, the question didn’t even make sense.”

Mrs. Chipunza, Head, Kanda Primary School

“A lot of students used to have to go home and get pencils because the teachers would not want them to come to class without stationary. Some had forgotten them at home. Some could not afford it. These children would cry at times because they knew they had no way out. They could not go home and ask their parents to buy the pencils. Some had no pencils. Some just knew that there was no way their parents could afford the pencils. So now, the teachers keep spare pencils in their classrooms so that they kids don’t have to cry any more. They have pencils for those that do not have, or for those that forgot them.”

“It is worth mentioning that the school as young as it is (established in 1994) is serving 402 families whose homes are scattered all over the place and stretch up to a radius of 20 km. What this effectively means is that +/- 150 students would be traveling a distance of 40km to and from school daily. This is no easy job. We have no dormitories. For the last 10 years the school has been managing what we call “bush boarding”. Students stay at school illegally. They look after themselves and this alone exposes the girl child, in particular, to a lot of risks like pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, and the like.”

“Swazi Primary was established in 1910. It has a big enrollment. We have 637 students, 342 boys and 295 girls. We enroll 6 year olds and the range goes up to 14 year olds. Our students are classified in three main categories – infants (232), lower junior (242) and upper junior (159). Amongst the students above we have orphans without both parents and these number 113, hence the pyramid shape as they go up the stream. Most of them drop out due to failure to pay school fees.”

“Currently our school does not have any textbooks and sporting equipment to use during sports. We only have one textbook per teacher to use and none for the pupils. Also we have no textbooks at all for content subjects. Pupils write on the floor due to the lack of desks and chairs. Most pupils have problems of grasping concepts and reading, because of non availability of textbooks and reading materials.”

“We also have a garden in which we grow vegetables and other crops. At the present moment there is nothing growing due to the lack of funds to buy seeds. At times we have a problem of stray animals getting into the school premises then into the garden because one fence is not all that durable. We also have a library at the school, but we have no books.”

“We get our water from a borehole which is within the school grounds. We use Blair toilets, which are shared at a ratio of one toilet’s squat hole to 25 pupils. Also there are only three bedroom- and one bedroom- houses for our teachers. The houses are not electrified. The teachers use firewood for cooking and candles for lighting in their shared houses. Although we like reading, there is no proper library in the school. A few books are kept in the Head Mistress’ office and we take turns borrowing them because they are not enough even for the upper grades to borrow on three different days.”