By Rumbidzai Ngwenya
“Education has two key results; which is quality and access, so when we are assisted in building infrastructure access to education for students is also improved.” These were the words of Mr Christopher Kateera, provincial education director for Harare Metropolitan province, at the official opening of a classroom block that was constructed by Plan International in Epworth, a poor suburb in the eastern part of the capital.
“Without quality and access efforts to boost education can be in vain,” he noted.
Education plays a key role in a country’s development and progress.
To better quality and access in education infrastructure should be improved.
Plan International, an international NGO which works in 71 countries across the world has been working to advance children’s rights around Zimbabwe.
In Epworth, where many children cannot afford to go to formal schools, the organisation has been striving to improve education infrastructure since 1993.
Plan International programme area manager, Khulekani Nkomo, said the learning environment in a school was everything to a student.
“Quality education is critical to us as an organisation which also helps to get good learners who can progress with their education,” he said.
“We value the education environment. We support the ministry’s education sub-sector plan which also looks at the pillar of infrastructure as critical in ensuring effective delivery of services to learners.”
Adequate infrastructure is essential in supporting the new curriculum.
“We believe that the effective roll out of the updated education curriculum can only be possible with sufficient infrastructure in schools,” Nkomo said.
“That is where we come in.”
The NGO also pays fees for the identified less privileged students in the community to ensure that every child has an opportunity to education.
They approach schools with the beneficiaries’ money and offer to help with projects that would otherwise take longer for the schools to fund.
One of Plan’s recent achievements was the construction of a one-by-two classroom block for A-Level students at Domboramwari Secondary School.
Before the construction of the block, there was no classroom to accommodate all students to learn in one sitting.
Some would stand outside the class while others were inside learning.
The block was constructed at a cost of $9 800.
Considering that the school has a population of 1 479 pupils, access and quality was enhanced thus easing the pressure for both learners and teachers.
“At Domboramwari we assisted in the construction of a classroom block. We provided building materials and expert labour,” said Nkomo.
Plan also wants to ensure sustainability of local communities to reduce dependency.
“One of our key strategies is partnership. We do not want to be seen as a donor but a development partner,” the Plan International official said.
“We partner with the school and the local community which provides labour while the Ministry supervises the whole process.”
He said local participation was critical for the success of the projects.
In terms of assistance, Plan encourages girl empowerment as a global strategy that aims to reach 100 million girls, who are disadvantaged.
“The local community helps us to select the most vulnerable students so that at the end we assist the most deserving ones,” Nkomo said.
Domboramwari Secondary School headmistress Mrs Zondiwe Ncube, applauded Plan International for the support they provided to the school and local community.
“For long women and girls have been marginalised, Plan in a way is redressing those issues,” she said.
“With rampant child exploitation in Epworth, this program helps them to stay focused.
“Girl empowerment programmes offered by Plan also helps to build confidence in them so that they can be able to make effective decisions in their lives.”
Head girl at Domboramwari, Hope Matimbe, who is also a Plan International beneficiary, was also grateful for the support the NGO was providing. “Were it not for Plan, I would be probably out of school because I come from a poor family which cannot support my education,” she said.
“Plan has given me a chance to dream, and I am very grateful for this.”
Hope was identified by Plan when she was only in Form One and today she is now doing her A-Levels.
At Domboramwari Primary School, the NGO supported the drilling and installation of a borehole with tank.
The NGO also donated computers at this school while at another Epworth primary they assisted with a solar powered borehole and tank.
At Mabvazuva Secondary School, a classroom block and an administration block were constructed.
A fence, a borehole and toilets were also installed.
Over the past few decades the world’s attention has been focused on attaining Millennium Development Goal 2 which is universal access to primary education.
During this period, governments and the international community such as Plan International, have been investing in school infrastructure, training teachers, and learning materials.
Plan International also supports families especially those living with disabled children.
They work with support groups such as Village Serving and Lending Skills where they generate and raise money to start projects.
In Hatcliffe, the NGO supports young people to be responsible and engage local authorities on how to keep the city clean and safe.
Plan International has operations in various parts of the country.
In times of drought, the NGO also provides food relief to the affected regions.