The Sunday Mail
As schools open their doors for a new school term on Tuesday, some, if not most, of St Charles Lwanga High School pupils will be agonising over their future studies.
Only 63 of the Catholic-run school’s remaining 256 pupils have been accommodated by other learning institutions that are under the ambit of the Roman Catholic’s Diocese of Mutare.
St Charles Lwanga – which is in Chimanimani province of Manicaland – was bludgeoned and wrecked by both rockfalls and mudslides occasioned by Cyclone Idai, considered the worst weather-related disaster in the Southern hemisphere, on March 15 this year.
Two pupils, Munashe Jena (13) and Watson Kocherani, lost their lives in the tragedy.
A contorted heap of debris now lies where the 56-year-old school once was.
But in the painful aftermath, it is becoming increasingly difficult for distressed parents to move on.
Mr Farirai Masekesa (50), a representative of some of the parents, told The Sunday Mail that the Diocese of Mutare hadn’t lent any satisfactory support to parents who were desperate to secure placings for their children.
“The (Mutare) diocese, as the responsible authority, has not assisted our boys in any meaningful way, as expected.
“They just supplied parents on social media with phone numbers of school headmasters’ of a few schools in Manicaland,” said Mr Masekesa.
Some parents felt it would have been ideal to have the affected pupils in one school to lessen the burden associated with buying new uniforms and books.
“In going to a new school, there are hidden costs that parents and guardians feel they will not be able to afford – buying new uniforms, blankets and stationery, especially taking into cognisance the current state of the economy . . .
“For the Form Fours, we feel there should be continuity as some schools do not offer the same subjects, and also the issue of practical subjects like agriculture and computers – all those things have to be considered,” he said.
Hoping against hope
Mr Masekesa has every reason to be worried: his son, Takudzwa Masekesa (16), is in Form Four and is therefore due to sit for his final exams this year.
And his son is equally worried.
But his heart still lies with his battered school.
There are fears that pupils from St Charles Lwanga might be stigmatised at their new schools.
“We will wait for its reconstruction together with our teachers while we are at a temporary place.
“We have already been given nicknames – ‘ana Cyclone Idai’; what more at a new school?” said Takudzwa.
Another parent, who elected to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the matter, said the Diocese of Mutare had failed to meet its part of the bargain.
“As parents, we were expecting the diocese to organise one place for our boys and teachers. Since their term was cut short, they are behind, so as a parent l feel my children can’t cope with others at a new school, be it boarding or day (school),” said the concerned parent.
“Schools are to be opened on Tuesday and yet we don’t know what to do. We are stranded, we as parents are appealing to Unicef (United Nations Children’s Fund) to get assistance for uniforms, text books and exercise books,” added the parent.
Anxious parents have since delivered a petition to the Diocese of Mutare after failing to reach an agreement with the diocese’s education secretary, Mr Lawrence Chibvuri.
Initially, authorities thought the students could have been housed as Eagle Training Centre in Vumba, Mutare.
However, it proved to be logistically infeasible to make the arrangements in time.
Some parents even vented anger on Mr Chibvuri for going for a site visit at the centre without them.
“The parents told me that I did not act professionally by going to Eagle Training Centre without them,” he said.
Sixty-three pupils, he added, had managed to find other schools in the diocese.
There are plans to build a new school at a separate location, which has been found at Ruwaka, 20 kilometres away from the old school. Encouragingly, authorities believe that the pupils will ably adjust to the new school term, especially after the traumatic events in March, as they had been provided with free counselling services. Overall, both the teachers and pupils received two counselling sessions from five organisations.
Efforts to get hold of the Diocese of Mutare were fruitless at the time of going to press.