Friday, July 15, 2011
Hurungwe District, Zimbabwe
Even before the sun was up, in the early morning chilly temperatures, we were on our way to to Matau, a 4 ½ hour trip from here in Harare, Zimbabwe.
We were going to the ground breaking for the Matau Primary School project. This is a Save the Children project funded through The Oprah Winfrey Foundation in honor of Tererai Trent, Oprah’s all-time favorite guest who attended Matau school in her early years. The project focuses on improving children’s education through rebuilding the school, and, more importantly, boosting literacy and early learning for children in Matau and neighboring villages.
Once we arrived at the school we were ushered to an open space behind an old classroom for the ground breaking. More than 1,000 people, half of them children, were gathering, waiting for the event to begin. You could feel the excitement. Parents, school children, Chief Matau and the guest of honor, the assistant district administrator, were all there. (This was not your ordinary day in Matau.)
The Headman, an elderly grey-haired man, led everyone in some blessings. To my surprise, the cultural blessing was simply having all man clapping their hands while the women sang.
The master of ceremonies, who is the deputy headmaster at the school, then called out to the children saying “Slogan” and all the children raised their little hands in excitement and chanted:
“Oprah! Auya nePower, (Oprah has brought education power), Oprah! Auya nePower. Save! Yauya nePower (Save the Children has brought education power), Save! Yauya nePower.”
Then, there were gymnastics, poems, songs and dances from parents and children.
In his speech, the chairman of the Matau School development gave kudos to the parents for their commitment to the project. In just one and a half months, the parents molded all 450,000 bricks needed for the new school. (That’s a lot of sweat-equity!) All that remains is the curing of the bricks.
“The most important form of inheritance that we can leave for our children is education,” said the local counsellor for the area. He added that “today’s function is a reminder about one of Matau’s former students, who despite being based overseas, continues to be concerned about the welfare of children at her former school.”
“We want children to learn in a safe and child-friendly environment,” said the Mashonaland West Provincial education director.
Then, the district administrator, surrounded by school children, broke ground by digging a pick into the dirt at the construction site. Nearby, women and men were cheering and whistling in celebration.
After the closing remarks, it was time for us to join in the feast of “sadza,” (thick maize porridge), which was being cooked in black iron pots over the fire. This is the norm in our African culture. Food and celebration go hand in hand!