Lesedi School and Clinic Update
Guest blog post by Fiona Thompson, Director of Ngoko Safaris
PVF hosts a designated fund for Generosity in Action, a conduit for U.S. travelers to make tax deductible donations that support international projects, such as Lesedi Schools & Clinic. The project was the brainchild of a Zimbabwean safari guide, Benson Siyawareva, who has worked tirelessly on Lesedi since starting the project with a pre-school in 2014. He is supported from the UK by Fiona & Graeme Thompson, who run a child sponsorship program at the schools and handle fundraising and financing through a UK-registered charity, Ngoko Charitable Trust. Lesedi is totally reliant on private donations and the achievements to date have only been possible thanks to the unwavering generosity of our supporters, many of whom have visited Lesedi. The following is an excerpt from their most recent report.
As a quick summary, Lesedi Clinic serves the villages of Chidobe, Monde, Ntabayengwe and Sizinda. In addition to looking after the needs of Lesedi Primary and Secondary Schools, the catchment area includes the neighboring Monde Primary School. The clinic team comprises a mid-wife, a primary care nurse, two nurse-aides, a general hand and a village health worker. The clinic is privately funded through the charity, with no external assistance. It is operated on a not-for-profit basis.
Opening the clinic at the start of the pandemic meant that patient numbers were initially much lower than anticipated. This situation was exacerbated by a reluctance (or inability) in the community to pay any fees for medical services. However, we are now seeing a steady rise in patient numbers as the community are starting to appreciate the quality of service at Lesedi, and the availability of medicines. In addition, some patients are now travelling to Lesedi Clinic from Victoria Falls town as word is beginning to spread further afield. Although we charge higher fees for patients attending from outside of our catchment area, Lesedi Clinic is a far more affordable option than medical services in town.
All children enrolled at Lesedi Primary and Secondary Schools continue to be attended to at the clinic, for cases that can be managed at clinic level, making a huge difference to the welfare of our learners. The Expanded Program of Immunizations we mentioned in our December 2021 report is continuing from the clinic. The Amalima Loko feeding program also continues on a monthly basis, with pregnant mothers, breastfeeding mothers and children under two years of age receiving soya porridge and cooking oil. This vital program assists in preventing malnutrition in the first 1,000 days of life. The clinic has also become the base for other external projects, with the Ministry of Health and Child Care in partnership with Plan International distributing long-lasting insecticidal mosquito nets throughout the entire Hwange District.
Over to Lesedi Primary School to see what has been happening in Term 2. We have a total of 11 dedicated teachers at Lesedi Primary, supported by nine ancillary staff from the local community who are employed to prepare the school meals, tend the gardens and provide security. The school is also thankful to our four volunteer helpers who provide valuable assistance, enabling the teachers to focus on their duties. One of our teacher’s, Ms. Joyce Tholanah, decided to move on to new challenges at the start of this term, relocating to Bulawayo. She was replaced by Mr. Innocent Nkomo who took over our Grade 6 class to prepare the students for exams next year. This term was the first time in two years we managed a full term without any disruption which enabled the teachers to settle into the task of helping the children to recap on learning they may have missed. Additional time was allocated to reading, helping learners revamp their skills. At the end of the term learners wrote tests to assess their performance. Most performed fairly well, with a few needing more attention. Having received the results of the special needs assessment from earlier in the year, we are now actively searching for a suitable special needs teacher to join our Lesedi team. We have at least 20 children who should ideally be moved to a special needs class, so it is vital that we appoint a specialist teacher in the near future in order to give these children every opportunity to reach their full potential.
On World Environment Day, the children recited poems on the importance of protecting our environment. They also planted two trees, Moringa and Bird Plum – which they named ‘D.J. and Prince’. The grade 3 to 6 classes also participated in planting and nurturing trees at the sports fields and around the school grounds. Learning about conservation presents some challenges for the children as they become motivated to make changes to their own lives. “I have now joined the Eco Club at school. It is a club that teaches about the environment and the importance of not cutting down trees and conserving nature. It is very educational but we also need firewood from the trees. It is hard to tell my parents not to cut down trees.” – Nozwelo, grade 5 . The school garden has been lovingly tended by Mr. Egias Zinhu in recent years and he recently harvested tomatoes, cabbages and green peppers, which were a welcome addition to the school meals.
Upon opening schools for the second term, our secondary school learners were greeted by the appearance of a giant colorful gate, with the features speaking volumes about the Lesedi project. The sheer size of the gate resonates with the enormous dreams of what the project sets to achieve for the community. The cascading wheels on the top beam tell a story of small, beautiful beginnings of the Lesedi dream and its gradual realization and growth, whilst the green arrow on the last wheel reflects the future trajectory whose end is beyond the skies. As the learners returned for the second term, one could not help but notice the enthusiasm that was written all over their faces as school resumed for the first ‘normal’ term since the start of the pandemic. All the leaners returned on time, save for one boy whose guardian had opted to transfer him to a school in Bulawayo, but later revoked the decision and the boy joined us a couple of weeks later. Despite the best endeavors of teachers during the pandemic, it is clear that two years of school closures and disturbances has left an indelible scar on the education of our learners. On the academic side we are generally impressed by the gradual progress we see in the learners, although it is not something that can be celebrated at this stage. Considerable effort is still needed to get a good number of our learners to catch up, although we have a few learners who are very competitive which is a good sign for us. At a combined event with Lesedi Primary, the students treated their audience to mind-blowing poetry, drama and music in our school hall. The performances made us appreciate that the children have talents that need to be encouraged through specific programs. To that end, we have introduced a variety of school clubs to nurture identified talents.
We will end with a huge thank you to our supporters, sponsors, partners and the Lesedi team. Remarkably, since 2015 we have raised nearly $1.7m for Lesedi through your incredible support. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Each and every $, £ and € given over the years has been fully maximized through a combination of Benson’s tireless hands-on project management and our determination not to make any deductions for overheads or admin costs. Consequently, we hope you will agree that the $1.7m has already achieved a very impressive amount, and will continue to do so for generations to come. The Lesedi journey is still in its infancy and we are excited to discover what the future will bring.