Ralph Junior School directors, Mr Ralph Mungwari and Dr Dorcas Mungwari, believe children that are most intelligent in school rarely become entrepreneurs and are likely to end up working for the other students who were not the best academically.
Dr Mungwari — who says starting a school was a calling from God — says being a good teacher means one should look at themselves as a parent to the pupils they teach and if that surrogate parent gives students confidence, such students can grow up to own businesses and change lives.
God talked to me. He said: “I want surrogate parents that will change the character of children. So in this school, I am the first surrogate parent, the second is the teacher. The teacher has to love the children, first and foremost. I don’t want teachers who love money or who come here for employment. I want teachers who love the children first before they care for their own needs.
“They will get their needs but we are here as parents and therefore we should love the children first,” said Dr Mungwari.
“God also told me to put worth in the children as they feel worthless because of the conditions (around them). So, here in this school, one of the major things we do is to give the children confidence. They have to be confident because as long as you have confidence, even if you fail your “O” levels, you can make it in life. The real people making money in Zimbabwe today are school leavers from private schools — they have good language, good confidence, and they do business. Most of the traders in this country are people who have been taught to have confidence in themselves, not those who got “5 O levels” or those who have university degrees.
“The people who make it in life are people with confidence, not people with educational results. The people with educational results, the “A students” – from number one to 15 in class, become “slaves” all their lives because they are seekers of white collar jobs. Those are the lawyers, doctors, accountants, lecturers, etc,” she stressed, adding that getting or aiming for a white collar job is akin to aiming for slavery.
“You better believe me: The people with educational results, the “A students”, think they are brainy and smart intellectually. So they provide services. They don’t start businesses. The number 16 upwards are the people who start businesses.
“So God told me to give the children confidence, because with confidence they will go places. With confidence, they will achieve even where they have not achieved academically. So we teach the children in this school a lot of confidence. How do we do it? One: we never shout down a child. The moment that you shout down a child in the presence of other children, he loses confidence. You don’t label a child as naughty, unintelligent, dull, etc. You instil confidence by telling them that they have the ability to be good children.”
She believes so much in her theory that even the Ralph Junior School Prize Giving days are different. Whilst they appreciate and applaud intelligent students who excel academically, there is more to what they reward and notice in pupils.
“Whenever we have prize giving days, we don’t give only the best child in education a prize, we give the best in academics, the best in sports, the best in being smart, the best in being responsible. Every child in the class gets a prize, not just one person. Every child gets a certificate for doing something good or for what they are good at.
“God said treat the children as princes and princesses. So how do you treat a prince? You give him the best environment and expose him to the best in the world. Therefore most of the students in this school have visited and stayed in all the 5-star hotels in Zimbabwe. That is part of being a prince.
“A prince or a princess goes on holiday, so the children should be exposed to having a holiday. We have gone to Durban in South Africa as a school, we have gone to Mozambique, they are exposed to the sea, they cannot just read about the sea as Zimbabwe is landlocked, they should sit on the beach because they are princes and princesses. We always tell our children that they should behave like princes and princesses.
“A prince doesn’t run around, he doesn’t make too much noise, and we insist on these rules and regulations in class.”
Celebrations at the school to appreciate pupils, parents, teachers, groundsmen and maids to mention a few are done at every opportunity.
“We celebrate birthdays, so when a child has a birthday there is a celebration in the class, there is a cake, and we sing for them. We also celebrate the single-headed parent family. In this school, our definition of a family is all embracing. To us, a family is just not a father, mother and children. That is just one type of family. There is also a family where there is a father and children only, or a mother and children only. There is yet another family headed by a child because the parents have died. But it is a family nonetheless, so when we discuss families in class, we don’t make children who have lost their parents feel left out.”
Dr Mungwari completed her studies at Colorado University in USA and could have done well for her life without starting a school if it wasn’t for God’s calling. In fact she left her job and ended up with no money to pay rent and even relying on her maid for food and other essentials.
“(After my studies in USA), I had the opportunity to pass through Washington DC on my way back to Zimbabwe to present a paper to the Congressional Sub-Committee on Natural Resources on sustainable resource management in Zimbabwe. And they gave me a lot of money to come and fund programmes in rural areas in Zimbabwe’s border districts.
“To tell you the truth, I was really enjoying my work, putting the money where it should be before the call to start a school came to me. In fact, initially that call didn’t go down well with me at all. But somehow, as God would have it, one thing led to another, and I lost interest in my work and found myself at home. That was when I started a training course from God. This was in 2001. One day I just tendered in my resignation at work. Then I started my lessons from God. Interestingly, after a few months, I had no money to pay the rent for our house, no money to pay our maid, we had no food and no school fees for the kids. Fortunately my pastor, who is now gone to live in Boston, used to give me a box of food and would pay the rent for us after getting her allowance and food from the church. That really humbled me. Today, no matter how high I go, I always remember that a person can really go low and be humbled.
“In those days, our maid would get her day off on Saturdays, and go and plait ladies’ hair and bring the money home, and that was the money we used to keep the home. At the end of the month, I would ask the maid to open my wardrobe and get the dress she wanted. That was her salary for the month. We went down, I can tell you!
“My classmates from university would come and say, ‘What are you doing in this two-room house?” It was bad. But I think it was good for me because it was a humbling time so that I would not have pride when I went up.’
Today that lady is the owner of a school to over 500 pupils and she is setting it up to be a school that nurtures not only academics but all sorts of talents and skills. Already the school has all weather tennis and basketball courts, a swimming pool and trained professionals to teach pupils these disciplines.
Dr Mungwari says even the A-Class pupils at Ralph Junior School are being taught to consider becoming employers instead of slaving for the formal market.
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