By Tinomudaishe Chinyoka
There was a girl, let’s call her Joyce, in Mberengwa, who went to school without shoes. She missed some days of school, sometimes weeks or terms and, more than once, a whole year. When she finally arrived at Grade 7, she was three years behind her peers. She wrote her examinations and managed 8 units from 5 subjects.
Thinking that the nearest secondary school would be as kind as the primary school that made her write exams without paying fees, she went to look for a place. They would gladly take her, they said, but she would need to bring her results slip first, and then school fees. That, is when her world spiralled from intolerable to near impossible.
The primary school said they would not release her results unless she paid the outstanding fees of RTGS $139.00. Her grandmother, with whom she stayed, did not have it. Her parents simply did not want to be involved, they ceded her to her grandmother a long time ago because they cannot afford her.
Undeterred, she went to look for a job. A local farmer offered her a job rekufudza mombe, from the month of January. In January he did not pay her, promising to do so in February. When February came he again did not pay her, promising to pay her in March. March came, he said he would just pay her at once in April, and she could start school in second term.
At the end of April, when cattle no longer need herding, the man told her that as she had been eating his food all this time, that in fact was her pay, and she had eaten it all. She was no longer welcome. She had to go.
We do not know how the family received the news that she had no money after four months of work, and we will likely never know. Chakafukidza dzimba matenga was meant for these kinds of things: but it is unlikely that the matter did not result in some lashes.
Still, after a few weeks at her grandmother’s, she took another job, ‘rekusuka ndiro’, she says. This employer said they would pay the school directly for the Grade 7 results, and then they would also help pay first term fees for Form 1. She agreed, and worked. And worked. Six months she worked, until January 2020, when schools opened. The employer said that she hadn’t worked enough to pay for the RTGS $139.00, so she resigned herself to work all of 2020 so that she might finally get her Grade 7 results, and then work some more to pay for Form 1 somewhere.
This is a story that is sadly not unique, and one that will sadly repeat itself again. It is not a story of Mberengwa alone, but is happening everywhere. Children having their education curtailed because they simply cannot afford the fees, girls stopped from progressing to A’level because there simply is not enough money and are asked “why don’t you just get married?”
There are some programs to help indigent children, but scour the rolls of the pupils receiving these monies and you will find children of teachers, headmen and other community leaders making up the large numbers therein. Corruption, it seems, does not just happen in Harare or around tenders or Ministerial cars etc. It has permeated and percolated into every strata of society and results in the Joyces of this world.
Whatever did happen to Joyce?
Well, a Youth Officer (yes, those that the MDC wants fired because it says they are being used to advance ZanuPF interests) heard about an Advocate with a scholarship program. She did not know his phone number, so she used half her monthly salary towards bus fare to travel to Harare to look for him and plead the case for this child. (For this effort, she is in the process of being fired, but that is a story for another day.) On 11 February 2020, Joyce enrolled into a boarding school, weeks after schools opened. And four days later, her class had a Maths assessment.
She scored 98%.
We are expecting great things from Joyce.
Tinomudaishe Chinyoka is a qualified lawyer and social worker, living in Harare where he practices as an Advocate. He is a member of the ruling ZanuPF. Follow him on @TinoChinyoka