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A Shop Without A Shop-Keeper.

By Shingirai Vambe

Firorimwe primary and Secondary school students played and danced the local traditional music, celebrating the achievement and opportunity created to enable their educational success and accessibility to the world through digital connectivity, to address the challenge, demands and gaps in education, bottle necks being created between rural and urban schools, thanks to development partners who have helped the sector with resources to enable equal access of learning material and resources.

Non-governmental Organizations, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and the Germany Development Bank (KFW) have come up with Schools Improvement Grants to enhance the learning environment and improve the physical conditions of rural schools and a total number of 4500 schools benefited, which is half of the total schools in Zimbabwe.

The parent ministry has reported increasing cases of school drop-outs, high margin being from the rural areas, this is due to long walking distance and inequality. Teachers in remote areas often report for duty twice or thrice a week same with their students, the paltry salaries paid by the government measuring little effort to sufficiently execute their duties as required.

Teen pregnancies and drug abuse have not spared the school going children, the girl child being the most affected.

As the nation arrive to the foot-heel of the international Women’s Month, philanthropist, founder and Director of Securico security company, Divine Ndhlukula vowed to change the mindset, complementing the Government of Zimbabwe’s effort by closing the existing gap, introducing digital skills in her rural home in Gutu, Chitsa Village, Makudo.

Dr Divine Ndhlukula, Founder and MD for SECURICO. Pic by Shingirai Vambe

250km North-Eastern part of Zimbabwe, 3 provinces meeting and going separate ways. Mash-East, Manicaland and Masvingo province, At Matimba business center, an earth mover was busy grading the gravel road which was impassable and inaccessible for a distance of a kilometer straight into Nyazvidzi river.

The change of weather and seasons, this year it is really difficult to predict, the Post On Sunday however arrived at Makudo, 23km up from 115 Nyazura-Chivhu highway, two elderly women were walking, listening to the rumbling sound of tyres in the gravel dust road, stopping each and every vehicle they find going their way, wearing jackets as on this particular day, it was drizzling and cold in the morning, later after 12 midday, the sun was overhead, the heat continuing to stress the already affected maize plants.

No province has been spared, the effects of climate change are vivid and hunger-stricken citizens looking hopelessly as visitors drive their way to Makudo, hoping to see a very big center with hype of activities and people celebrating and enjoying their weekend out, alas, a very quiet Saturday, people smartly dressed walking towards their business center, built in a straight-line method, 14 buildings are serving the people with various business markets.

It’s a norm, most people would build their houses where their shop is, to avoid walking in the morning and after work as well as providing security of their wares. Here we see the old brick and mortar 2 roomed house, divine and her siblings used to stay together with their parents. The shop her father used to operate, painted with a leaf green color. Synonymous and common in villages and rural areas, we have seen deserted left to self-destruction houses, roofs falling inside the walls, and in Shona they say (rave dongo) meaning no one is looking after the place and it’s no longer habitable.

In this current harsh economic environment, who would step up and utilize unused buildings in rural areas and properties for community benefit as a social corporate responsibility?

Hoping, with high expectation to see a newly built structure with Morden face and material, the first step to the entrance of the shop without any food stocks or bags of fertilizer and maize meal, there are shelves full of books and a new section with a set of 10 computers which had been installed together with a solar system, this was an amazing thing most people have failed to do.

Sidney Sheldon said, “Libraries store the energy that fuels imagination. They open up windows to the world and inspire us explore and achieve, and contribute to improving our quality of life”.

Mbuya Mary Simbi library opened its doors 3 years ago, in 2021, the shop without a shop keeper but a Librarian who is helping students from 7 schools around Chitsa village. In recent times, no adult would be found reading or looking for any material in the library, the recent development will now cater for adult literacy, digitalizing the rural community and economy.

Divine said she asked every member of her family to partner and contribute towards the establishment of the library and computer lab, bestowing it with the respect it deserves, as a family seed to the community.

Named it after her late mother, Mbuya Mary Simbi Library and computer lab received a good start from the proceeds of her recently launched book, “Entrepreneurial Success” in recognition of women and the girl child, highlighting the success stories and opportunities that may come in life.

Founder and Director of Westprop, Ken Sharpe donated 10 computers, while the parent ministry of Information, Communication and Technology, pledged to donate another set of 10 and make available internet connectivity in the library. Zb bank and local stakeholders donated various stuff while the fabulous 4 and Proweb, donated reusable sanitary wear for school going children of Chitsa village.

The local Chief, Nyika C. Chitsa told the Post On Sunday that, the event and gesture was a new thing in his village, which is under developed and marginalized. He said because of poverty and inequality, majority of talented children are not identified and this current development may help in identifying those with different talents who need help and get assistance from well-wishers.

Ndhlukula said she is fulfilling her mother’s wish, to keep and maintain their rural home and in a way, she has left a legacy that will help the whole community through education.

As part of her philanthropic work, she is currently recruiting young boys and girls, who failed to continue with their education, somehow disadvantaged and giving them another chance by joining her security company, Securico, as security guards.

Securico is one of the leading security companies in Zimbabwe which has also empowered women and the girl child, it has employed more women as well as accommodating them in leadership positions, paying school fees and bursaries for the disadvantaged.

Firorimwe primary school children following proceedings during the official opening of the library and computer lab. Pic by Shingirai Vambe

During his speech, Sharpe said, he was ploughing back to the community, for the school going children and the disadvantaged, to give every child an opportunity to access the digital world.

Politicians hate individuals who bring development, as they fear competition and being replaced during campaigns and election periods but, the Local legislator, Benjamin Ganyiwa said there is no politics in developing his constituency, whether one decides to run for a political position later or not, that should not stop development.

“We want everyone from our constituency, influential individuals to plough back into this community and constituency. We have great people, Lawyers, Doctors and business people, they must come and develop this community, establish businesses and build up infrastructure for generations to come” added Ganyiwa.

Ndhlukula said her wish is to fight inequality in her rural home, bridging the gap between urbanites and rural folks, seeing no difference in gender or race, and or find excuses when exposed into the society.

“This initiative and education are to make it possible for you to stand with anybody as an equal, because you would have read, my plea, I ask you to read books and computers have been made available for you. Chief, I want to see this area developing, there is a government approach, of decentralizing development and services into rural areas, thus we can’t be left behind and this is our contribution to the development,” said Ndhlukula

Parents and teachers who graced the occasion thanked all those who donated as they needed to travel over 60km to access internet and other digital services like printing, photocopying and internet. They would go to Gutu Mupandawana Growth Point or Murambinda.

Zimbabwe has many such places which are marginalized and inaccessible.  From the road to mobile network, there isn’t access, including at Makudo, it is very difficult to communicate with anyone over the phone, people have to walk to places they have identified where there is network coverage so that they can make a call.

Chief Chitsa said such lagging behind was not good for his community and in case of emergency one cannot walk out at night to call or send a text message, his village has more than 4000 people. This as a result, speaks to more house deaths in rural and marginalized areas as well as pregnant mothers giving birth using the old traditional means of home deliveries.

Visitors as usual wouldn’t like to spend much time because of traveling, as the clock winds, the extended gesture made rural folks delay for a while to make sure the fridge gets empty and empty pots have been cleaned, such gatherings happen once in life time, food and drinks unite and fairly separate people after hours.