Much to be grateful for as we start 2021
Wow! Makomborero Zimbabwe has entered its second decade and we have extended a warm welcome to 27 new students (10 Lower Sixth internals, 16 Lower Sixth externals). For the first time ever, we were able to welcome into the Resource Centre one external student who was already in Upper Sixth (thanks to a very kind sponsor). We have taken on our highest number of students to date as we continue to bridge the gap in access to education for many, many students, even if in this small way.
We have also welcomed two 2020 gap year students, Milton and Yeukai, as our first ever Makomborero Zimbabwe interns. They are a natural addition to the staff compliment and we often wonder how we ever got by without them. Our resource centre is now at full capacity and has a buzzing atmosphere that all students seem to enjoy. The year 2021 started under Covid-19 restrictions. There was much uncertainty surrounding how the school calendar would be structured and this was not the easiest start to the year for our students. It brought much worry and meant that some external students had no access to studying materials. Communication with our students proved key in those times, students were in much need of both encouragement and practical solutions and the Makomborero team did their best to meet both. Our external students began their lessons in March after the Covid19 restrictions had been relaxed. We are proud of how they are adapting to new protocols and juggled lesson times as Heads of schools and their staff make massive efforts to curb the spread of the virus.
Makomborero continues to support external students with data bundles and food packs. We are acutely aware that families are still facing poverty worsened by the ongoing pandemic and we know the negative impact this has on both the mental health of students and inevitably their education. On the 20th of March, we were able to hold a workshop for both internal and external students. It was a full day of fitting in training that would have otherwise been spread out during the course of the term. As much as it was an educational experience, it was also an opportunity for students to relax, catch up, laugh and eat together.
External students were presented with backpacks, lunch boxes, water bottles, toiletries, stationery, hand sanitiser, masks, solar lamps and food packs. We had a generous donation of clothes on this occasion and these were distributed to both internals and externals. We won a grant that enabled us to purchase sustainable sanitary wear for 80 girls. We were pleased to have been able to distribute some of these on that day.
Our team is working on launching an online learning platform for our external students. It’s an amazing project that will be of huge benefit to the students once it is completed. We are hoping the project will be completed by the end of April and each external student will be issued with a tablet. Private schools opened in January online. We are incredibly grateful for the excellent education provided by our partner schools. For most of our Lower Sixth internals, online lessons were a completely new and daunting experience. We are proud of them for making the transition from their schools and the face to face learning they were so used to.
Thank you to Makomborero staff who made sure that the six students who required glasses were able to get them and to SpecSavers who were able to test the students at discounted fees. Some students’ eye sight was so bad that they had been having to hold books to their faces or sit at the very front of the class just to see. It was humbling to see their first reactions to the world in their new glasses.
We would also like to say a huge thank you to students at our partner schools for how welcoming they have been to our Makomborero students. One of our internal students, Melisah, said she felt that her classmates had been waiting eagerly to meet her! Thanks to kind donors, all internal students were also presented with backpacks, hand sanitiser, masks, toiletries, lunch boxes and water bottles. Both internal and external students have beaten the odds this first term and all students have worked very hard. We are proud of all of them!
A huge congratulations to our 2020 leavers for the incredible A-Level results and to our current A-Level students for their equally amazing AS results. We are excited to announce that our 9 A-Level Cambridge students’ results were as follows: 26A_, 3A and 2B. Our 9 AS-Level Cambridge students’ results were as follows: 27A, 5B, 1C. (I know we are beginning to sound like a broken record but, there are no A_ at AS-Level.) Well done everyone!!
We were thrilled that, compared to many parts of the world, our students were able to actually sit and write their examinations and be properly assessed. We would like to give heartfelt thanks to teachers and staff at our partner schools. Such incredible results are out of reach without their hard work. We value greatly their partnership with us and their dedication to our students and their education. The delay to the start of the first term has also meant delays in marking and releasing Zimsec results. It meant a longer than usual wait for our external student. We look forward to getting these results.
Our local university students are waiting eagerly to begin lectures. There has been a more than 100% increase in fees for most programmes. We are extremely grateful to a local company that paid all our university fees as well as stipends for our 25 students. Lots of incredible graduations were celebrated during last year’s tough Covid times and we are so proud of our students. We are grateful to have been able to keep in touch with our university students who are outside of Zimbabwe. More than ever, they have needed the support system that is their family, friends and each other as most have not been able to travel at all in the last year. In the last few months, past Makomborero Zimbabwe students have strived to make better connections with an exciting Alumni programme and they are giving back to current Makomborero Zimbabwe students through a newly formed mentorship programme. It has been a joy to watch the creativity and hard work that past students are putting into these programmes.
The Mobile Science Lab has recently re-launched. As always, it is a great benefit to students from schools where equipment for practical science lessons is scarce. To satisfy all Covid-19 protocols, the number of students per session has been halved. As much as we would like to impact more students with the excellent practical lessons on offer at the Science Lab, we have accepted that for now, this is not a possibility and are grateful for the few that will get this amazing experience.
Plans are underway to begin the Ndeipi training sessions (our small business training). The attendees are often guardians/parents of students and this helps them to feel part of the Makomborero family too.
We were excited to begin Girl Mentorship sessions after a year of not being able to meet. Sessions started in April. Mentor training was done via audio clips. Our amazing mentors could not wait to get started and have done so with much enthusiasm. It’s shaping up to be a great year for Girl Mentorship programme. As we only had a few meetings with the 2020 mentees, we presented each of them with a food pack (beans, rice, soya chunks, porridge, pasta, sweets and biscuits) at the beginning of the year. They were pleasantly surprised and appreciated the goodies.
Our University of Zimbabwe residence in Harare is still an ongoing project but we have made some fantastic progress. Walls are painted, solar panels installed, beds and study tables made and the gazebo is up and ready. We are hoping to have the first residents in the house this August. Our staff have finally moved in to their new office! They are loving the space and putting their mark on the new space.
A final sign off
Despite all that is going on or not going on, we have tried to keep things at Makomborero Zimbabwe as normal as possible. The Albertyns have continued to go to the boarding house to share meals and spend time with students. Life Skills sessions continue to be a much looked forward to part of the week by the internal students. We appreciate that we can use Life Skills to discuss topics that help us raise well-rounded young men and women. Some of our sessions have had to occur via Zoom and have been just as effective and a bit of a welcome change. Training of Girl child mentors and interns has happened successfully via audio recordings.
As you can probably tell, this first term had the potential to be extremely hard but thanks to your ongoing support, we have managed to have lots of highs and we have continued to stand as a family and champion the education of young people despite all that is going on around us. We are extremely grateful to our sponsors. We are privileged to start our journey into this new decade with you!
The recruitment process for the 2021 Scholarships has started.
Over a recent weekend, 190 students from 90 Zimbabwean schools came for the first round of testing for the 2021 Makomborero scholarships. 65 of these students came from outside of Harare and Chitungwiza, and Makomborero had to accommodate 15 of them.
However, due to Covid-19 regulations, this was quite a challenge in itself. Due to the current banking restrictions that limit mobile transactions to $5000zwl (50usd) per day, it was incredibly hard getting the money to cover transport costs to all these students. We needed to distribute $60,000zwl to the attendees. By hook and by crook, we managed to borrow various mobile banking platforms and distribute the money over a couple of days. There is still no cash available in large enough amounts, with our weekly withdrawal limit is set at $1000zwl per week.
Accommodating the out-of-town students also took quite some planning. We were able to organise temporary accommodation at our UZ (University of Zimbabwe) boarding house (which is still a work in progress) and we were able to borrow bedding and mattresses for the students. Terrence and Noel, 2 Makomborero Alumni, also stayed at the house to look after them. Feeding these guests was also quite a challenge! However, in the true Zimbabwean tradition of making a plan, we were able to take advantage of the fact that currently many UZ students run roadside cafes as a way of paying their university fees and we were able to secure 15 meals of stew and sadza (the maize meal staple) for $1zwl a plate.
All the visiting students were so determined to make the most of the opportunity and here is an example of this:
The bus a female student boarded from Masvingo broke down on the way to Harare and the testing weekend. The passengers were stuck on the side of the road throughout the night and day. Unfortunately the driver would not refund the passengers their money to allow them to catch another bus. However, the girl was determined to come for the testing so she managed to find a relative who could pick her up when she got to Harare. We were able to send her a new bus fare and this student made it in time!
The first round of testing encompasses tests that take into account an individual’s raw ability. This is particularly important this year, as most of these students have missed 9 months of schooling over the year. They all embark on their GCSE equivalent exams over Christmas and into the New Year, with huge delays caused by Covid-19.
To add a lighter side to the weekend, we also organised art therapy sessions, with some lovely creations resulting.
We are in awe of the hard work of the Makomborero team in Harare, who, together with a team of Makomborero Alumni students and with a team of volunteers, made this daunting weekend possible, driving the students, cooking, organising, marking and cleaning and much, much more.
Thank you all for your commitment and we await the next stage of testing when the final dozens of students are assessed on a more individual basis.
We wish them all the best of luck!
You can see image from the weekend here: https://www.makomborero.info/2020/12/15/making-a-plan/ and an illustration of the recruitments process can be seen here: https://www.makomborero.info/recruitment-process/
A report from Makomborero on all that has happened during the 2nd term of 2020
What a weird term it has been! Covid-19 has changed the world and changed everything at Makomborero. We have had to pause many of our projects over the last few months. However, it has given us lots of time to reflect, learn how to run the office remotely, access and make lots of changes. As hard as this season has been, it has also been incredibly productive. So much time to improve and implement – when do we get time like this!
One of the biggest effects of Covid-19 and the lock down on our families has been the massive loss of income. Most of our families are not employed and rely on the informal sector to make an income for their families, mostly through vending. During the very strict lock down, it was an incredibly dire situation for them. Even as the lock down has continued, but to a lesser extent, many of the families are not earning anything and survival has become incredibly hard. We have managed to feed all our external and internal students’ families with 3 food packs each. We worked with an incredible organisation that makes products that just require water – bread mixes you can cook on the fire, healthy delicious porridge, etc. etc.! We are so thankful to be able to offer healthy, nutritious food to our families. These packs were literally life savers.
Our UZ students have also not been spared the stress of Covid-19 and having to learn remotely. We have been able to provide them with mobile data to study, living allowances for food and encouragement through this hard, isolating season. Their learning has been hindered but I have been so impressed to see them continue to push through!
Our internal students have had the wonderful opportunity to continue with online learning and incredible lessons through their school – St George’s, Hellenic and Gateway. As much as they miss real school life, this has been a good substitute and they have been able to access all online learning! They will write their end of year Cambridge examinations starting at the end of September. So lots of preparation work is going into those finals.
Our team has been working staggered hours but have managed to keep the boarding house and Makom-borero going and we are so thankful for their hard work and dedication. We have learnt how to administer our own rapid Covid-19 tests, we have learnt how to run a quarantine facility, keep our students and staff safe! It has been a massive learning curve for all of us.
We have loved hearing from all of our students – those at University, those at school etc about how even though this time has been hard, it has also been an incredible opportunity for them to learn new skills, spend quality time with their families – seek out the silver lining amidst the hard times! We have been so proud of all of them! For our students studying abroad – not being able to come home has been particularly hard too!
The team has been working on launching an online learning system for our external students so that they too can benefit from online learning and not just during Covid-19 – so watch this space. All our students – internal, external and university students have been supplied with mobile data for access to internet to help with their learning during this season.
This is also the time of year when we are able to celebrate our students who have successfully completed their tertiary studies. We have been receiving great inspiring news throughout the term.
Phillip graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine and a Bachelor of Surgery from the Central South University in China. He is now working with the Xiangya Hospital doing research on the need for a Clinical Skills Training Center at Parirenyatwa and Harare Hospitals. Lazarus graduated online from Jacobs University in Germany where he gained a BSc in Electrical and Computer Engineering. Ruvimbo graduated from Agnes Scott University in the US - thanks to a Mastercard - ALA scholarship. She has now secured a job at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts as a research associate doing cancer research. We wish them the very best as they start a new chapter in their lives!
Finally, we have embarked on an incredible project – we were given a property last year to open a residence for our University students. It needs renovations and we applied for a grant to do this. During lock down we decided this was the perfect opportunity to convert the garage at the University house into an incredible office for Makomborero. Our admin office has always been at our house – in a tiny storeroom! It was about time! It has a wonderful storeroom, bathroom and kitchen area – with a big, open plan office space! We are hoping to finish the conversion this month and move into our new office soon! The other incredible news is that the Beit Trust has approved us for a grant to renovate the UZ Residence! We hope to start the work in October! It is incredibly exciting!! Thank you Beit Trust for believing in our vision!
So as you can see Covid has limited the activities we can report on but know that we are incredibly grateful for your continued support of us and Makomborero during this hard year we find ourselves in. Stay Safe!