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‘I don’t know what we would have done without SIG’:UK funding rescues Hwange school

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BY WILSON MAREYA AND JOHN MOKWETSI

Without the School Improvement Grant (SIG), learners at Nyongolo Primary School in Hwange district would not be celebrating the provision of textbooks, teaching material, classroom furniture, and a good learning environment.

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Nyongolo Primary School is a registered rural school located about 340 km from Zimbabwe’s second-biggest city, Bulawayo.

The school is a few metres from the Hwange-Victoria Falls highway and has 5 classrooms and 272 learners (147 females and 125 males).

Hwange District is primarily a mining district.

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Large coal deposits are found in the district, and several large coal mines are located there.

Despite being mineral-rich, the locals survive on menial jobs, with most not affording to buy their children basic education needs.

Most learners live within a radius of 10km from the school.

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Nyongolo is one of the beneficiaries of the School Improvement Grant (SIG) Regular programme made possible thanks to funding from the United Kingdom’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

The grant aims to support financially constrained schools with resources to meet their minimum functionality standards.

FCDO supports the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education initiatives towards improving the quality of education for all children, especially the vulnerable and disadvantaged, with UNICEF managing the funds and providing technical support.

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The school head, Nokuthula Ndebele, is ecstatic when she speaks of the benefits of SIG: “Textbooks have come as a game changer for our pupils. We used to have acute shortages of textbooks, where the school could only afford one textbook for the whole class.

“For the Ndebele language, the school did not have any textbooks for grades 6 and 7.

“With the funds available to purchase more textbooks and teaching materials, the learners gain motivation and interest in learning as each learner has their textbook for most of the subjects.”

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She added that for the Ndebele language in 2022, the school posted impressive Grade 7 results, with 24 out of 34 learners having passed.

“We expect this success to be replicated in all other subjects in 2023. The quality of learning is surely improving.

“Our school had many non-readers when I took over as head in 2021. Now there is a significant improvement.

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“With access to textbooks, the reading culture is improving,” Ndebele revealed the positive impact.

For schools like Nyongolo, where several learners were non-readers, SIG has been a critical pillar in supporting foundational literacy.

Ndebele added: “SIG is the most contributor towards the school’s existence; I don’t know what we would have done without SIG.

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“The school would probably not exist anymore.

“The levies and fees are too low to support the school.

“With the last grant, we purchased 16 single desks, 18 chairs and 24 textbooks, and our classrooms are now looking the way a classroom should look.”

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Most desks and chairs are stacked at the back of the classroom as schools have closed for the third term holiday.

The school’s School Development Association (SDA) chairperson, Joseph Ndlovu, said of the support: “Before the intervention of UNICEF, our school did not have enough textbooks.

“Children sat on combined desks and chairs, which made social distancing impossible during Covid.

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“Now a larger proportion of the learners have single desks and chairs. The community is quite happy with the improvements at the school.”

He added that the school and the parents could not afford textbooks and suitable furniture for every learner.

“The school could only afford to buy a single textbook per class for the teacher.

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“We are glad for the support we receive from UNICEF and the Ministry (of Primary and Secondary Education).

“Now for most subjects, each learner has their own textbook, and the children are happy”, said Joseph.

The support given to schools has positively impacted schooling in many financially constrained schools in Zimbabwe.

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Dreams of a brighter future are being kept alive in these poor communities.

Ndebele spoke of the challenges.

“The challenge is still on subjects like PE and ICT where we have one textbook for the whole class in some classes.

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“We also do not have enough classrooms for our learners. If the district approves our application for Complementary Funding, we plan to renovate and complete a classroom unit for ECD.”

In early December, the school applied to the District Education for UNICEF-supported complementary funding to support the school’s infrastructure development.

The school aims to renovate and complete a big classroom unit for ECD and provide an appropriate and enabling learning environment for the infants.

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The school head hopes to get support from the School Improvement Grant component of Complementary Funding from the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) – where schools get funding to renovate, rehabilitate or complete existing school structures such as science laboratories, classrooms or hygiene-friendly toilets for the learners. She is also hoping for continued support so the school can purchase suitable furniture for infants and purchase more textbooks for subjects like (Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Physical Education (PE). – UNICEF Zimbabwe

 

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Gastronomy takes center stage as Victoria Falls hosts UN tourism forum

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BY BAYANDA NKATHA

Victoria Falls is set to host the inaugural United Nations Tourism Regional Forum on Gastronomy for Africa this week, a first for the continent.

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The Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry expects around 10 000 attendees, particularly on the first day, which will feature an official opening ceremony presided over by President Mnangagwa on Friday.

The conference, taking place at Elephant Hills Golf Course, will then proceed with delegates from around the world.

Zimbabwe was chosen to host the forum in recognition of first lady Auxilia Mnangagwa’s efforts to promote gastronomy tourism through her cookout competition and humanitarian work with the Angel of Hope Foundation.

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This event offers Victoria Falls the opportunity to showcase its capacity for hosting large events, as it has done in the past, and allows locals to benefit from the tourism value chain.

A UN Tourism technical delegation visited Victoria Falls two months ago and was impressed by the city’s readiness.

Tourism Minister Barbara Rwodzi confirmed that preparations are almost complete, saying, “We are ready, with preparations at 98%, and look forward to hosting the event.”

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The forum aims to empower local communities to participate in the tourism sector and benefit from the value chain.

Notably, Victoria Falls co-hosted the UN World Tourism Organisation Summit with Zambia’s Livingstone City in 2013.

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Health ministry grapples with malaria, diarrhea, and dog bite cases

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BY NOKUTHABA DLAMINI 

According to the latest Disease Surveillance Report released by the Ministry of Health and Child Care in Zimbabwe, the country is facing a significant burden of three major health issues: malaria, common diarrhea, and dog bites.

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Malaria cases on the rise

In the week ending July 7, 2024, Zimbabwe reported 476 new malaria cases and two deaths. The majority of the cases (79) were children under the age of five. Mashonaland Central and Manicaland provinces were the hardest hit, with 205 and 118 cases, respectively. Cumulatively, the country has recorded 31,757 malaria cases and 57 deaths.

Diarrhea cases continue to soar

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The report also indicates that 6,520 common diarrhea cases and two deaths were reported in the same week. The deaths occurred in Harare Province and Mbire District in Mashonaland Central Province. Children under five accounted for 2,930 of the reported cases. Mashonaland West and Mashonaland East provinces reported the highest number of cases, with 933 and 930 cases, respectively. Cumulatively, Zimbabwe has recorded 175,551 diarrhea cases and 60 deaths.

Dog bites on the increase

Furthermore, 486 dog bite cases were reported, with no fatalities. Notably, 104 of the cases involved bites from vaccinated dogs, while 115 involved unvaccinated dogs, and 266 involved dogs of unknown status. Masvingo Province and Mashonaland East Province reported the highest number of dog bite cases, with 82 and 81 cases, respectively. Cumulatively, the country has recorded 14,093 dog bite cases.

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The Ministry of Health and Child Care urges citizens to take preventive measures to mitigate the spread of these diseases.

For malaria, this includes using insecticide-treated bed nets, wearing protective clothing, and eliminating breeding sites for mosquitoes.

To prevent diarrhea, the ministry recommends practicing good hygiene, drinking clean water, and seeking medical attention if symptoms persist.

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Regarding dog bites, the ministry advises people to avoid stray dogs, ensure their pets are vaccinated, and seek medical attention immediately if bitten.

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Parliamentary committee tours NRZ properties to assess infrastructure and identify solutions

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NRZ officials and MPs prepare to tour the Victoria Falls Bridge

BY STAFF REPORTER

The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructure Development, chaired by Knowledge Kaitano, has rounded a tour of National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) properties across the country.

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The committee aimed to assess the state of infrastructure and identify areas for improvement.

NRZ, a state-owned parastatal, owns several properties beyond its railway business, including some that are leased to private entities.

The tour began in Bulawayo and proceeded to Dete, Hwange, and Victoria Falls on Friday, where the committee visited the Victoria Falls Hotel, Victoria Falls Bridge, NRZ station, and Landela Complex and rounded it off on Saturday.

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Kaitano emphasized the importance of the tour, stating, “In the past two days, we’ve seen things we don’t just want to highlight, but we want to walk with you to close the gaps,” he said.

“NRZ is not just a management or board issue; it’s everybody’s issue. We’ve seen the assets you have, and we’ve already established areas of deliberation.”

Mike Madiro, NRZ board chair, highlighted the entity’s critical role in logistics as the government implements the National Development Strategy 1 towards achieving an Upper Middle Income Society by 2030. “We have challenges, no doubt about that.We need to provide logistics solutions to the country’s agenda. Logistics is key to the government’s agenda, and NRZ is important to achieving that agenda.”

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