MASVINGO- “I love to come to school every day to use the tablet, at home we do not have a smartphone or electricity, but at school we have electricity and I now know how to use a tablet for my studies……’’
A grade six learner, Bezel Tshoga at Benzi Primary cheerfully explained why she now loves going to school everyday more than before, thanks to the ‘My Dream School Campaign’ which has changed the learning landscape in the rural areas since its introduction in 2020.
Last week UNICEF conducted a media tour at Benzi Primary School in Chiredzi East, under Chief Tshovani to have an insight on how the School Improvement Grant (SIG) is impacting rural schools.
The programme is being facilitated by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education (MOPSE) together with UNICEF.
The grant was made possible by the Education Development Fund, a multi-donor pooled funding mechanism supported through aid from the UK Government and the German Development Bank (KfW). The EDF enables donors to jointly support the Government of Zimbabwe through the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education in its activities, with UNICEF managing the funds and providing technical support.
This initiative has seen many rural schools being turned into a typical dream school where learners have access to Information Communication Technology, reading and learning materials as well as furniture.
“Before the introduction of this programme I did not like going to School because it was boring. There were no tablets and WiFi. With the tablets I can do e-learning and get to know new things like robots and how I to use a flash toilet in town.
“I am happy now because we are learning in a classroom unlike in the past when we used to learn under the tree,” she said
SIG aims to support financially constrained schools mostly in rural areas, with resources to meet minimum learning standards.
The programme comes in different packages, which might include money grants, school furniture, solar systems to improve provision of water, sanitization and hygiene while embracing digitalization.
Speaking during the tour, MoPSE Director of Communications and Advocacy, Taungana Ndoro said that the programme has been rolled out across the country with more than 150 schools benefiting.
“MOPSE in collaboration with UNICEF and its partners is taking strides to improve inclusivity and access to education as we walk the talk towards Vision 2030.
“This campaign is called ‘My Dream School Campaign’ where we are saying no matter where you are located, learners must have their typical dream school brought to them.
“At this school there is electricity, enough water, wifi and there is no excuse for not doing CALAS and we want all schools across the country to be like Benzi,” said Ndoro.
In an interview with The Midweek Watch, Benzi Primary School Head, Chimwayi Makasi said the school was established over a decade ago mainly to cater for children of newly resettled farmers in Chizvirizvi resettlement area, but now boasts an enrollment of 533 pupils.
The school has connected power to all the classroom blocks from solar panels, has a solar powered borehole, textbooks, new school furniture and is now connected to wifi through the SIG program.
He said since coming on board of the SIG program, institution has witnessed an upward trend in its pass rate.
Apart from achieving good pass rates, the establishment of a solar powered borehole at the school has also come in handy for the school’s feeding scheme while the surrounding communities now have access to potable, clean water at the school.
“Now our school is a source of pride here in Chiredzi East.
“Our pass rate has significantly increased compared to previous years.
“In 2022 we introduced ICT at the school through SIG and we managed to record at least 60% pass rate and in 2023 the pass rate went up to 76,32% a feat we believe would not have been possible without SIG,” he said.
Makasi added that the transformation of the school since coming on board of SIG in 2020 has led to increased teacher moral.
“Before SIG was approved it was a sacrifice to be a teacher at Benzi Primary School.
“Teachers are now motivated because they now have resources which contribute to the high pass rate.
“With the support of the SIG we acquired 16 solar panels in 2020 which is our main source of electricity and even at the teacher’s places of residence.
“We received some tablets which we are now using for surfing and radio lessons especially now that we are recovering from the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
“The ratio of book sharing has drastically improved and some classes are now on 1:1 or 1:2.
“Our pupils used to sit on the ground, but SIG has brought relief as we now have chairs and tables.
Apart from improving the learning environment at the school, SIG opened avenues for the school to undertake income generating projects courtesy of the solar powered bohore system.
“SIG has opened so many opportunities for us. Out of the water we have secured we installed a fish pond which contributed largely to our feeding scheme of children and at some point we managed to harvest up to 60kg of fish.
“We have extended the garden from 400m2 to about 1 hectare. In the garden we harvest fruits for the children and we do vegetables, tomatoes, beans and onions which is used on the feeding program for the learners.
“Sometimes we sell to the community and we receive money which we then use to buy other stuff which may be needed for the school like cooking oil or even chalk,” he said.