A few months ago I featured the World Links Zimbabwe Trust (WLZT) in my Bridging the Digital Divide post. It's an organisation that helps to distribute refurbished computers for use in schools.
The cogs had turned slowly, but good to his word the Director, Mr. Eli Gudza had identified Shingai Primary School in Chitungwiza on the outskirts of Harare to receive a donation of old computers from our EU delegation office and had renovated them, ready for use.
What I expected to be a small ceremony was arranged with the EU delegation Ambassador Aldo Dell'Ariccia kindly agreeing to make the handover. Arriving in advance I had the chance to look around what was clearly a well run school with a tidy compound and friendly staff and pupils.
The school has a small inclusive education programme for children with hearing impairments and had installed accessible toilets with support from the Leonard Cheshire Zimbabwe Trust. Creative recycling of materials had been used to create a classroom shop. Textbooks purchased via the multi-donor Education Transition Fund were in use, all neatly backed to increase their lifespan and carefully stored away.
The school library was clearly still in need of more books – textbooks distribution nationwide to all schools is close to completion, but adding more library stock to simulate young readers is still essential. Various schemes exist to try and identify surplus stock – such as the SABRE Foundation and Room to Read – and get books to where they are most needed.
The school laid on a major show of hospitality, with parents, local officials and students all gathered. After a rousing display of children singing and dancing, there was the handover and a tree planting ceremony, followed by a visit to the computer room. Two facts really stood out to me.
The first was the level of security deemed necessary: not just a sturdy door, but iron bars right across the ceiling to prevent thieves breaking in via the roof - it really underlined that economically times are tough.
The second was even more stunning, that the school development committee and parents had managed to donate twice as many computers to the school as my office had, enabling a fully equipped laboratory for 40 children to be completed.
The thirst for knowledge and advancement is absolutely tremendous in Zimbabwe, its humbling to think of the sacrifices that are made all over the country to provide better educational opportunities for tomorrow's generation.