All manner of names grace birth certificates these days. From Kylie to Jordan, Rhianna to Elvis, Esme, Hiedi, Sonny and even Yoda. All have featured prominently in recent years according to top 100 lists and yet none of those feature here in Zimbabwe. “Thats a pretty obvious thing to say” you might be thinking and yes, I suppose it is, but what they have done here is mix a very common group of Anglicised names that you’d be very familiar with such as Daniel, Jacob, David & Michael and added to that a long list of local Shona (the local language and culture) names such as Tanaka, Mufaro and Tafadzwa, and then for good measure some parents have taken English words and turned them into names as well. What does that look like exactly?
Well, Knowledge is a very popular boys name for example. What an amazing aspirational name to give your son, no? How about Gift? That’s the name of the headmaster at the school that we’ve spent our last 2 days, although obviously he is known simply as Mr. Bere to everyone outside of his closest friends and colleagues. How about calling your daughter Princess? I can actually imagine that one going down pretty well on many a council estate actually, but if you were to see the girl in question here I’m pretty sure you’d agree that it more than fits (we’ll try to get a photo to show asap). Beauty and Precious are others. I for one think that this culture of adapting words, of what is actually not their native language, and using it to name their child more than fits with what we have come to know about the people of Zimbabwe. They are embracing change, good or bad, and adapting as best as they can. The future is education, and the future for their children in this world is in English so why not use a word that they think they like the sound of and is aspirational for their precious offspring to give them a head start in the world while your at it.
This is where this country’s need and desire for education really comes into play. When talking about what we are trying to do here and what this and many of this nations schools are trying to do here, a wise women told me this: Educate the children, so that they can challenge the status quo with words, not guns; so that they can read and write good English, which is the language of power. It’s the only way for Zimbabwe to recover.
You have to understand that this is a country where the mortality rate puts it 206th on a list of 224 countries listed by the U.N. The average age at the time of death is 58. 20 more years here and I’ll be living on borrowed time! Local statistics state that in some areas of Zimbabwe, the average age of death for a female can be as low as 34. In contrast so that you can compare that for your own worlds and from the comfort of your armchair, the U.K. is 33rd in the list with an extra 22.7 years of life compared to that of the average Zimbabwean. Other notable entries are: 1st Monaco (89.5 years), 22nd Spain (81.7 years) and 42nd U.S.A. (79.80).
This is a country on its knees and its become so obvious and clear to us this week that the only way that we can help is if they help themselves with an education. Unemployment is at the highest rate it has ever been and in todays papers, even the pro-government ones, were all doom an gloom about the state of the economy. Only by giving the children the right start in life, an education, can they be the ones to drag their country up by its bootstraps. If it takes 20 years, then thats what it will have to be, but we are seeing that next generation and helping them become that hope that this country so desperately needs.
With all this in mind, today was another eye opening day at Great Hood Academy. We got chance to sit with the older children this time around and boy did they make us feel like our own classes were just a way to pass the day when we were at school. Perhaps yesterday was a fluke with the novelty of us being there, and all the kids wanted to impress us maybe? No. The older children didn’t seem to even notice our presence in the classrooms other than when I tried to speak a bit of Shona and everyone laughed at my mistakes. It was the grade 6 and 7 that really impressed, though, with kids fighting (not literally of course) to answer the questions first with their hands in the air desperate to stand up and write on the board.
Nicole also noticed how the extra hours in the day are used but the staff and their students and thought it was an amazing use of their skills. The last hour seemed to be for homework and going over things already learnt that day, their teacher helping them with it, or going over parts that they hadn’t fully understood from earlier. Every child in those classes left knowing exactly what they needed to know and for us, that was inspiring.
Whilst me and Nicole were talking with a couple of the teachers outside at lunch time today, the children were running around the concrete covered playground when a trip, grazed knee and elbow later, Nicole found herself in full Miss Nightingale mode with one of the Teachers Assistance and got into an insightful conversation with her:
“She came up to me with the usual polite greeting and said “Good afternoon Ma’am”, I replied. The question soon came up at to what we’re doing here. I said that it must seem a little strange seeing us around the school everyday and not being told anything, and us just sitting in on the classes etc. So I began to tell her that we’d been raising money (and still are: Donate Here) for the last 16 months and with the help of our friends and family we’d raised a good amount of money to come and help, and while here we will continue to raise more . Then she asked what inspired us to do charity work in the first place and I simply replied that we have spare time to help outside of what every day life is for us and why not? While talking to this young 18 year old Uni student, she replied that she’d love to do something like that too, would love to get into charity fund raising and even talked of some ideas that she had. I found this so amazing and so wonderful. This young lady hardly had anything and yet she was still willing to help others less fortunate than herself.
While being in Zimbabwe I have found that the poverty here is so terrible but they are still willing to give what they haven’t got. Its something that we could all learn from I think. Its certainly something that I’m going to take home with me when we finally make it back to Ibiza in March, thats for sure.”
So with that we thank Great Hood Academy for hosting us these past 2 days and look forward to seeing them very soon. We’ll be heading back to Great Hood sometime next week to help out with some classes, but before then we have a number of other institutions we need to visit and see where we can help. Once we’ve been to them all, we’ll be making a list and then all your donations (Donate Here if you haven’t already) will be going towards that list. We can’t wait for that to happen, but want to assess each and every school and orphanage before we decide what needs are bigger, or indeed more possible, than others. Expect lots of before and after pics though of course!