The Sound of Change

Tererai podium

Dr. Tererai Trent, PHD , Educator and Humanitarian   

Hurungwe District, Zimbabwe

December 10, 2012

The following post first appeared on Tererai Trent's blog


Ping. Ping. Ping. 
That’s the sound of text messages hitting my mobile phone here in California, day and night, after
navigating over the long dirt roads and open blue skies thousands of miles away
from my home, in Africa.  With each ping, my smile beams more brightly, my
step has more spring and my bliss is boundless.  And, I am reminded of the
words of the soulful R&B singer Sam Cooke “A change is gonna come.” 

For you see, my dream
of bringing a better education to children in my rural village
of Matau, Zimbabwe, is soon to come true.  A
gaggle of grandmothers – Gogos in my native term, tease me with these texts,
feeding me morsels of news about the progress on the Matau Primary School
project. This will create a brighter future
for nearly 4,000 children and 125 teachers. 

"A brand new school
is now standing, it almost seems like I am dreaming
," Gogo Sande says
in her text. 

The next morning, before I
have recovered from my joy of reading her text, I get two more: 

"Tererai, my daughter
could not read and write and died leaving orphans under my care. Now they can
read at home and I get to participate in their reading, it has never been heard
of until Matau Project. It's a miracle.” 
Gogo Kawocha. 

"I saw the new desks
and chairs arriving, our children have hope for a better future,”
Gogo Kambuzuma tells me in her text.

My heart is brimming over
with affection and tears come to my eyes as I picture these grandmothers,
walking around my village, tracking down the young men and asking or paying
them a few cents to relay their messages to me via text on their mobile
phones.  I am humbled knowing that these women have had little to no
schooling themselves yet they share the same enthusiasm of children
awaiting their first day of school.

At this time of year, when we
express our gratitude, I want to bestow mine on these grandmothers.  I
thank them for reminding me that hope springs eternal.  I can hear them
saying, “Naysayers of Africa, pass on through. Your stay is temporary, like the
shift in shadows under the clouds of the African sky.”  Change is gonna
come. Progress is on the horizon. Can you feel it? 

Tinogona!  It is
achievable.

Tererai Trent Inspires Schoolchildren at Matau Primary School on Visit Home

Tererai podium

Dr. Tererai Trent, PHD , Educator and Humanitarian   

Hurungwe District, Zimbabwe

October 13, 2011


 The Matau Primary School is part of a Save the Children project funded through The Oprah Winfrey Foundation to honor Tererai, whose story of tenacity, courage and spirit inspired Oprah and millions of fans around the world. The donation to the Matau Primary School project was announced on May 20, 2011, during one of the final "Oprah" show episodes. Learn more here: SavetheChildren.org/Oprah 

Good Morning. My dear friends and family of Matau and our local officials, I am so delighted to be home. I return to Zimbabwe after an unlikely journey that began asa small girl with a big dream of getting an education.

Let me take you back to that time. You see, then as now, many men from our village traveled to Harare to work as commercial farmers and to South Africa to work in the mines. They would be gone for months at a time, and would write letters to their wives back home. But, these women – many of your mothers and grandmothers – had not been to school, and when the letters arrived each month, they could not read them. 

They would take their cherished letters house-to-house, seeking a child or adult who could read their letters, and only after the letters had been read by several people, several times, were they satisfied that the content of the letters were true.

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Dr. Tererai Trent reads with 10-year-old Beauty, grade 4 student at Matau Primary School  
(Photo Credit: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/Save the Children)

It broke my heart that these women could not read the most intimate conversations with their husbands, and this experience rooted in me a deep desire to learn. 

Since then, our community and our nation have traveled far.  Today, all Zimbabwean children have the right to go to school.  We are on a path to progress, and we can’t go back.  But, we have not yet reached our journey’s end.  And now, Oprah Winfrey has helped to redefine our destiny.

It is a change in destiny for our children here, in one of the most remote areas of this planet.  We are not unlike other rural villages in Zimbabwe or in Africa. Far from the city, we have more cattle than cars, and more lions than illuminations.  But, through the generosity of the Oprah Winfrey Foundation, a light now beams brightly on Matau and our neighboring villages.  For today, when people hear the word “Matau,”they do not see the shadows of poverty;they see the brightness of hope.  We have been given a great gift, and it is our responsibility to embrace it and be a shining example for all of Zimbabwe and all of Africa.

ZIMBABWE_94215Dr Tererai Trent shares a light moment with children from Matau Primary School
(Photo Credit: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/Save the Children)

But let me be clear on one point, this is the Matau Primary School project.  This is not the Tererai Trent school project.  This is not the Oprah Winfrey school project.  This is our project.  Yours and mine, working together with our partner, Save the Children. 

And, it is in that spirit of togetherness that our children will achieve greatness, whether they live their lives here in Matau, in Zimbabwe or venture to new lands.   For, as a very wise woman, my own mother, once told me, education is the only gateway out of poverty. 

What will we do together?

First, we’re going to build a new school with new latrines, new teachers’ houses and an administrative building so that children can have a safe place to learn. 

But we know that school buildings do not teach children, teachers do.  Teachers like our own beloved Mr. Gwaradzimba. 

In honor of him and others, we’re going to train our dedicated teachers and give them the skills to make them even better teachers.

We’re going to give our youngsters an early boost on learning, when their bodies and brains are growing rapidly, so that they will enter school prepared and ready to succeed. 

We’re going to help our children learn how to read by getting all of you involved in activities like reading days where we will devote an entire day to celebrate reading in our community, or reading buddies, where we will pair older students with younger students to mentor them. 

Now, some of you may be saying, Tererai, I do not know how to read or write, so I do not think I can help.  And to you, I say, there is a way.  Your worth may not be measured in the words you can read but it can certainly be measured in the words you can speak.

Ours is a culture rich with oral story telling.  Share our stories with young children.  It will pique their interest, and they will ask questions and want to learn more.  Ask your children what they have learned in school that day.  Show them your knowledge. 

For knowledge is power.  There is a common African saying that many of you may recognize.  “It takes two hands to crush a head lice.”  And, the same can be said for illiteracy.  It will take both hands – all of us, together – to crush it out and build a home of knowledge for our children.  You see, we are not just building a schooltogether, we are building a better future for our children and future generations. 

ZIMBABWE_94211Dr Tererai Trent shares a light moment with children from Matau Primary School
(Photo Credit: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/Save the Children)

So I close my remarks today with a special message for all of you:

To our government leaders, without you, we cannot achieve much.  Please recognize the importance of education and an early childhood development curriculum that benefits children.

To our community, be the light and example of how we can build something together.  We want people in Zimbabwe to say, “We want to be like Matau.” You have already taken that first step, by making more than 450,000 bricks for the Matau School buildings.  What an unbelievable and proud accomplishment!

To our teachers, I appreciate the role you’ve played in creating a learning environment for our children that help them realize their potential.  With more training, you’ll be even more effective.  You are the house of this community.

To our parents, encourage your children to realize their dream of being educated.  By building our home of knowledge here, our children will stay and become our teachers, our doctors, our leaders.

And, most importantly, to our children, ask questions.  Be curious.  Listen to your teacher.  Remember, many of your parents and grandparents cannot read and write.  They grew up in severe poverty without schooling. Will you choose the same route?  Or, will you take a different track and show the next generation what is possible.  And, even more importantly, what is achievable.

For we may be poor in material goods, but we will be rich in knowledge.

Tinogona! Tinogona! Tinogona!

It is achievable.

Thank you

A Groundbreaking Day at Matau Primary School

Sophie headshot Sophie Hamandishe, Communications Officer, Save the Children Zimbabwe

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.

ZIMBABWE_SAVE_THE_CHILDREN_90685
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. 

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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! 

________________________

Learn how you can get a Project Tinogona T-shirt and help support the Matau Primary School Project

 

Tererai Trent&#39s Remarks On Matau Primary School Groundbreaking

Tererai podium

Dr. Tererai Trent, PHD , Educator and Humanitarian   

California

July 15, 2011


 As we break ground for the new Matau Primary School, memories come back to mind. Once again, I am that little girl who wanted to learn how to read and write, but was deprived of that opportunity because of poverty. Today, memories like that belong to the past, to be buried under the ground on which the school of my dreams will rise.

Today I also am reminded of what has brought us here in the first place. It is the idea that education is a universal human right that holds the key to breaking the cycle of poverty. Education shapes our current and future leaders, secures better livelihoods, and builds strong vibrant communities.
 
It was a thirst for education that started my journey that would take me thousands of miles away from Matau – a world where possibilities became realities.
 
As I achieved my dreams through the years, there was one more I harbored in my heart. It remains the greatest of all and I am seeing the beginning of it today. In this village will rise a school that will be more than just a building. It will be a school supported by trained teachers, new learning methods and literacy programs, ensuring quality education to over 4,000 children here and in nearby villages.
 
As I reflect on my life, I can’t help but remember that if the challenges were countless, so were the blessings. There is no greater testament to that than to know that in the years to come, the children here in Matau and those of our neighbors will be better readers, better writers, and better off for having started on the path to learning early in life.
 
I am grateful to Save the Children, which has always been a champion for children’s well-being and education in Africa. I am grateful to Oprah Winfrey for her support and generosity. This school is a gift from her and it is my great honor to hand it over to my beloved community.
 
I thank the teachers who are on the forefront to ensure the success of every child. I thank you Matau parents who stood by me and supported my dream for an education. To the children, you are the reason for my resolve to build a school here. My heart is filled with joy when I imagine you sitting in the classrooms of this school, starting your own journey to become the finest women and men you aspire to be. Make yourselves proud; show the world that “it is achievable.” Tinogona.

________________________

Learn how you can get a Project Tinogona T-shirt and help support the Matau Primary School Project

Battling Crocodiles on the Way to School

Sophie headshotSophie Hamandishe, Communications Officer, Save the Children Zimbabwe

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mbire District, Zimbabwe


Most American school children think it’s a hassle just waking up early for the morning school bus. But that is nothing compared to the “hassles” for children setting out to school in northern Zimbabwe.

Out by the Angwa River in the northern part of Zimbabwe, children trekking to and from school daily must cross these crocodile-infested waters. You can imagine how much these children want to go to school to take such risks.

One such kid is 12-year-old Hardlife Kawara. Last year, on his way home from school, he and some friends were washing in the river when a crocodile attacked him. He told me his friends got scared and ran away. But his brave brother grabbed his waist and held on tight while the crocodile took a tighter hold of Hardlife’s leg and tried to pull him under the water. After a long struggle, the crocodile let go, but it took part of Hardlife’s leg off.

Hardlife now needs a new artificial leg as the one in this picture is now too small.

Hardlife, 12, after his crocodile attack with his prosthetic leg.
Photo Credit: Sophie Hamandishe

With orthopedic care and a prosthetic leg provided through Save the Children’s support, Hardlife is back on his feet and in good spirits despite his incredible ordeal. I am so inspired to see his determination. And, what is even more amazing is that after getting care, he returned home intent on going back to school. In the first three months of 2011 alone, seven children in this area were attacked by crocodiles.

Prosper Prosper, 8, another victim of a crocodile attack, is eager to return to school.
Photo Credit: Sophie Hamandishe

A sturdy foot bridge would help keep these children safe, but it is costs money that the community currently does not have. (A foot bridge would also allow kids to cross the river during the six months of the year that it floods.)

Local officials and education authorities are doing their best to come up with a solution. One idea is to build a new primary school in Komba village on the other side of the river so children don’t have to wade through the water. But until money can be raised for a new school, children will continue to face the river’s dangers.

In the meantime, Save the Children is holding workshops in the community to teach children how to protect themselves and avoid crocodile and lion attacks. I’ll save the lion stories for another day.