This trip has been very different from the last one, with much more laying of foundation stones and meeting people who need to give us their blessings in order for us to really support the Music For All Zimbabwe Schools. And both schools have now got ten year plans in place which is brilliant!
So, after arriving and taking the weekend to settle in, the first meeting was on Monday January 21st 2013 with the Minister for Education, Sport, Arts and Culture, David Coltart, who squeezed in 15 minutes with us at the end of the day of the state funeral of the Vice President. David was positive about the project and led us through the process we needed to do applying for permission from the Permanent Secretary. This includes everything from shipping educational materials over here to sponsoring children and helping raise funds for infrastructural repairs and boreholes. We have written the letter which David is forwarding to the Permanent Secretary before leaving on Tuesday 12th Feburary.
We spent time with the British Council discussing possible links and arts projects with them and arranging further meetings for our last week in Harare. The British Council have lots of schemes and it is a question of which of them will work for the schools both in the UK and in Zimbabwe. We visited the Mbira Centre run by the inspirational Albert, and he took lots of time to show us round and talk about the work and ambitions they have there, which are very much in the same arena as Fidelis’s philosophy for Music For All.
Then on Monday 28th January we set off to the schools to make 10 year plans in both schools, to give Sabi 15 more Mbira and present the packages of books from East Harptree School to both Matirige and Sabi. We were given such a warm welcome in both schools, and there was a fantastic show from them both, and we showed them the film of my last visit on a TV. Matirige now have a set of Marimba sponsored by the Solon Foundation, which after four weeks of learning they played as though they had done it for their whole lives!! There is a film clip of that to watch, and some photos of our trip….. Sabi roads were flooded so the pupils came to greet us and helped carry all the 15 Mbira, the TV and the books and presents across the river.. a sight to behold as we all paddled over to the other side and abandoned the car for the day! Jesse captured some great footage at the schools over these days with them, recording the events and the meetings and doing some interviews.
On Friday 1st February Fidelis and myself visited the District Education Office and the District Administrator in Chivhu to inform them about what the Music For All project was doing in Matirige and Sabi and to make sure that we were working with the correct people and getting their support. We had good meetings and positive responses all round, and both Augustin Mukorombindo (Head Teacher Matirige) and Godfrey Mugwendere (Acting Head Teacher for Sabi) came with us, so that was really good. We arrived back late in the evening to Cold Comfort and Fidelis’s family, very tired but really happy.
Then after a quick weekend doing some washing and catching up on emails in the internet cafe in Cork Road, we set off at 5am on Monday 4th February to visit Nyanga. The purpose of this was to see some of the schools there which the Solon Foundation have supported in many ways including installing sets of Marimbas which have been made by Fidelis. The schools here are in much better condition, have clean water and also far higher numbers of enrolment, from 450 up to 1000 which means that the support from parents is inevitably greater. Nyanga is also much more highly populated and they have electricity in many places and very good roads. But Augustin came with us on the trip to thank Willie (Solon Foundation’s wonderful key person there) and was inspired both by the schools, and, as were all of us, by the magnificent scenery and landscape.. unlike anything I have ever seen before.
Back in Harare by Wednesday 6th February there were more meetings with Elvis from the British Council who has been amazing at introducing us to lots of other people with contacts and ideas about how we might work with the Music For All Zimbabwe schools, and also planning for what happens next and how to get the first priorities in place. A music teacher is essential, especially as there is a plan to put Matirige into the Marimba Festival competition at Nyanga in November 2013. And in the long term it is vital that the teachers at both schools have learned how to teach music too. Then there are boreholes. And we have just heard that the river at Sabi is flooded again, and this means children missing another week of school.. so bridges are essential for them. Some of these things are going to be done in country but there is masses we can do from the UK to move things along with the communities – who are now very much leading the plans.
The ten year plans from both schools and the list of potential projects to fund are listed in separate documents. Sponsoring children is hugely important as there are still some who are not making it to school at all. More funding for taking a marimba band to the Nyanga Marimba Festival in November is needed, and there are small things which we can do fairly quickly. But some of the bigger projects of rebuilding and sanitation will require working with bigger organisations and NGO’s who have the expertise needed and the kind of money that does the job properly for long term sustainability. The vision which Fidelis holds is for all children to have access to music as part of their education in schools which would otherwise not afford them. Music gives a central focus that supports the commitment of the community to help restore the fabric of their schools so that the educational standards of their children are of the highest potential. It is the glue that is holding the communities together and helping them work towards really having ownership of their schools’ progress – at the same time encouraging them to see the future more optimistically.
It is a real privilege and honour to be allowed to work alongside them and see their development and enthusiasm showing results and producing fruits for, I hope, many years to come. It has been a lot of hard work from us all but hugely fulfilling to watch people take charge of things and rebuild not only their schools but their communities and their children’s futures.
With deep thanks to everyone who has supported Music For All Zimbabwe,
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