Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Education at Hopley and Caledonia farms in dire straits

By Vimbai Kamoyo

HARARE –  The name Hopley conjures images of positivity and optimism but nothing can be farther from the truth with regards to education at Hopley and Caledonia farms, two camps created for resettlement after the controversial 2005 clean up exercise code-named Operation Murambatsvina (Operation drive out rubbish).

Hopley Farm settlement in Zimbabwe
Hopley Farm settlement in Zimbabwe

“Operation Murambatsvina” was a government  exercise to clean up what it termed illegal structures in urban areas  but the exercise was globally condemned with the United Nations  saying that the action adversely affected 700 000 families directly and 2, 4 million indirectly.

The two camps which are just outside Harare have a combined population of about 70 000 but nearly 10 years on after the cleanup the resettlements are struggling for proper and sufficient education facilities.

Hopley, which has a population of about 40 000 people and according to its Member of Parliament about 3 000 school-going aged children, has only one registered school – a primary school.

Rangarirai Nhete (37) who he has lived in Hopley Zone 4 since 2006 said the lack of proper education facilities at the camp was discouraging and called upon the government and other relevant authorities to expedite the building of educational structures to improve the quality of education of students in the resettled slum.

“There are no proper schools here and that has negatively affected the desire among the school going age. Most of the boys spend their time on illicit drugs such as bron-cleer and marijuana and girls indulge in prostitution at a very tender age.  Just go at Antony (shopping centre) and see for yourself what is there.

“The only decent school that we have is Tamuka Primary School that is Zone 1. There are many private schools in the area but the quality of education at these private schools is suspect and those who are better resourced send their children to schools outside Hopley, normally to Glen Norah,” he said.

A freelance journalist who had to send his children to learn in neighbouring Glen Norah and has lived in Hopley since 2008 also raised the same complaints saying lack of appropriate schools has been the Achilles heel for proper education in the slum settlement.

“There are no schools in the area to talk about. I have been living here since 2008 and I can confidently tell you that there are few who know the area better. I tried to secure primary school places for my two children in 2009 but I did not find any decent school here in Hopley to send them. I had to send them to Shiriyedenga in Glen Norah “A”. Of course it’s costly as you have to fork out money everyday for lunches and you are always fearful of the dangers that could befall them in such long distances. I need about $4 everyday for their upkeep and that translates to about $100 every month. That is a lot of money in an economy that is bleeding like ours,” he said.

According to the World Bank the Gross Domestic Product per capita in Zimbabwe was last recorded at US$441, 15 in 2013.

A 17 year old Form Four student Lisa Chitabvu echoed Nhete’s sentiments saying there were no decent schools in Hopley so students are forced to travel long distances to schools with decent facilities. In her case she goes to Corpus Christ High School in Kuwadzana, which is about 10 kilometres from Hopley.

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“There are no credible schools here in Hopley. The private colleges we have here are out to rip money from desperate students and nothing else. The infrastructure is deplorable, the staff is largely unqualified and there are no textbooks.  I go to Corpus High which is in Kuwadzana. Other school children mostly go to Glen Norah particularly Easthill Secondary.  It is a challenge for us girls because we are always afraid of being abducted or raped,” she said.

Shadreck Mashayamombe, the Member of Parliament for Harare South constituency under which Hopley falls, said the shortage of infrastructure for education was one of the many challenges bedeviling Hopley and was quite candid in his assessment of the schooling challenges.

“Hopley has many problems and education is just one of them but it is the absence of CDF which has adversely affected the development of the area. The last parliament was given US$50 000 which went a long way in mitigating challenges in constituencies if it was put to good use. However, as the MP I will work hard during my term to put many things right,” he said referring to the Constituency Development Fund.

“On education I can say there are no schools to write home about here. There is one (Tamuka Primary) which was recently registered with the government. It was built by donors but is critically short of learning materials such as books. I consider the private colleges in Hopley as nothing but playgrounds and I have advised parents that they should not send their children to these private schools. It is better for them to send their children to Glen Norah or Waterfalls.

“However, I have talked to Mashambanzou Trust and they have pledged to build a new school just close to Boka Auction floors and they should be able to construct two blocks by the end of this year. We have about 3 000 children who should be attending school but Tamuka can only absorb about 450 pupils,” said Mashayamombe.

Caledonia farm, which like Hopley was created for Murambatsvina victims but on the eastern side of capital, is no better. It is in many ways a Siamese twin of Hopley.

Rex Mapanda who has lived at Caledonia since February 2007 said school structures were a problem for their children and like at Hopley they rely heavily on private colleges which he said were only out to make money.

“There are no decent schools here. Those with the wherewithal send their children to Tafara or Mabvuku but those without like me have to contend with private colleges we have here. The colleges are ill-equipped to say the least. There are no learning materials to talk about or structures such as laboratories that are vital for the education of a secondary school child. As parents we call upon the responsible authorities to act expeditiously in resolving our concerns,” he said.

The government through its economic blue print the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZIMASSET) is mum on exact amount it will allocate to education. However, the whole programme needs $27 billion.

The document acknowledges the challenges the country faces on infrastructure.

“The near collapse of public service delivery, deterioration in public infrastructure, increasing poverty and massive skills flight from most public institutions experienced in the last decade, makes it critical for the government to implement programs that enhance service delivery by all public institutions”  it says..

The Minister of Primary and Secondary Education Lazarus Dokora in an interview said his ministry was aware of the challenges facing the two communities but efforts to correct the shortcomings were hampered by financial constraints.

“We are very much aware of the challenges being faced by the two resettlements but as the ministry we are facing financial challenges but as soon as the resources permit we will certainly move in and correct the shortcomings,” said Dokora.

Although  the government allocated US$866 million, the biggest chunk  of its US$4.2 billion for 2014 to primary and secondary education, it is not cast in  stone that the ministry will get the money as everything depends on how much revenue the government will earn since it is operating on a cash budget.

According to a “Schools Infrastructure Audit” conducted by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education  last December the country faces  an acute shortage of basic education facilities and requires an addition of 2 056 primary and secondary schools to meet the demand.

But despite all these problems Zimbabwe still has the highest literacy rate in Africa according to the African Economist Magazine. But more needs to be done to achieve world class standards.