31 Oct

No Shoes = No Exams Decision: A Gross Abuse of Authority & Violation of Rights


Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda

Two days ago when I read the article of a child denied to write exams because of no shoes, I was bothered and took the issue casually. When today I woke up and read a follow up news item by Takunda Maodza  in the Herald that the same student Belvin  Chibi denied the right to sit for his 3rd exam paper because again he came with shoes but not school shoes, I was furious. It was unbelievable.

Its sad that the Belvin Chibi, a form four student at Mweyamutsevene High School had made an effort to come in some borrowed shoes for this third exam, and he was chased away because they were not the right school shoes!  He had earlier come with no shoes and had been denied the right to sit for his exams. Clearly, the teacher Mrs Nyasha Rubende acted against the rules, and her husband the headmaster, Mr Abel Zebron Rubende appears complicit in this decision.

This story made many people angry, with extensive social media commentary and calls for action. As a person who grew up in a very resource poor family, shoes was a luxury as we had to sell and assist our parents raise the school fees. Many Zimbabweans may never have taken their primary or secondary school exams if shoes were a requirement. This is a huge infringement on the basic dignity of the poor. The decision by Mrs Nyasha Rubende scratched my soul. Its abuse of office and authority, and it is heartless decision. I have perused the Education Act of Zimbabwe and did not find the words shoes mentioned anywhere!

I urge and appeal to the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference as well as the Zimbabwe Minister of Education to prioritise investigations and take the necessary measures in this case. The following are key facts that makes this issue pertinent and urgent:

  1. The right to education for every Zimbabwe child is protected by the constitution and subsidiary laws of the country. This should not be violated and robbed of any child by anyone and especially by teachers whose are paid to ensure that our children can access and enjoy this right.
  2. Recognising the dire economic situation of the country and prevalence of poverty and inability of parents to even afford the basic fees, it is unreasonable that school uniforms and shoes should be a pre-condition for any child to sit for an exam. This amount to penalising the child and the parent because of their poverty. This is degrading treatment to the child and his guardians.
  3. The loss to the child, Belvin is huge, considering that he has to resit the same subjects a year later. This is emotionally costing to him and his parent, it has material and financial costs as he needs another year to study, keep his motivation and also pay for necessary tuition and exam fees.
  4. The behaviour by the teacher and headmaster strains the relationships between administration and students as well as parents, thus undermining the much need supportive and enabling environment for learning.
  5. The teacher and headmaster infringed the laws and basic ethical tenets and fundamental values in education. They bring disrepute to the church and to the Zimbabwe education system as a whole. They act with impunity and therefore its important to ensure justice.

Indeed, the facts at hand may simply be the tip of the iceberg with regards to the goings on at this institution of learning Mweyamutsvene High School. It could also be a reflection of the many infringements in the education sector. These are some of the factors that results in school drop outs and limited transition of our children from secondary to tertiary education.  It is crucial that the media continues and sustains its investigative journalism on such individual cases as this is one sure way of rooting out the rot in our society.



05 Oct

The Cellphone Farmer: How Technology is Revolutionalising Agriculture Management

Maize Field

Maize Field

I grew up in a farming village. I have this natural, deep relationship with the soil. The groundnuts in my mother’s field bought me school uniform and paid my fees. The vegetables from our garden paid for the grinding meal, soap and oil. The bananas, cucumbers, watermelons and okra gave us nutrition. With extra bags of maize and beans, I came to understand the market, its rhythm and pricing.

I enjoy growing things. I enjoy touching, seeing and being part of the land, the soil, the plants and all the goings on that make this possible. In recent yes, I was feeling nostalgic. Because of distance, and staying away from home, I could not enjoy this natural relationship with the land, until recently, when I discovered the power of being “a cell-phone farmer”, the power of technology.

It was such a revolution in my village with cellphone service providers Econet and Telecel had their booster aerials (substations) installed on a little hill just near my field. Internet connectivity became abundant. Everyone in my village owns a cellphone, almost. Even sekuru Fabian, has his line and he has been pleading with me for a better handset, the one that can send photos!

I started to receive a stream of photos about my mango trees near my house, the gum tree small plantation that I set a few years big, the big snake that was seen and removed by the Game Parks Officials, the beehive that was near the electric pool. I saw my cows grazing and a short video of the bubbling stream. I knew immediately that I could enjoy farming all over again, as a cellphone farmer. Its not really the same like touching the soil every day, but its good enough for now.

So this season, I assembled my great team of workers. The project manager and assistant have an iphone, and we speak on Whatsupp. They share photos, and we analyse progress of specific projects. I can use skype with the team and we can laugh and chat. I am able to just zoom in with google earth and I can see the whole land, the barns and grading shades, the cow pens and all. I can monitor and verify information from my team. I no longer have to worry about leakages in purchases and payment. Thanks to the introduction of the mobile money, I use ecocash to make payments.

YES, its never the same like feeling the morning dew, raindrops on your skin nor smell the morning after the heavy rains. At least, I can farm again, be on the market and participate in the goings on on my land.

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