Today, (Tuesday 22nd January) is the 12th day of business at One Way Pre School and we seem to have settled at the number 35 for our school which is absolutely fabulous. It’s been a real learning curve running a school in Africa.

We found out early on that many parents really wanted their children to attend our school (which was encouraging) but that they were really struggling to be on time for work with the school timings. It seems that here, somewhere around independence, when the government put less and even less money into the school system, schools had to adapt their structure to include child care – not just education – as schools were forced to charge for education. So these schools, now do not offer a full education, as they have too big an age range in their classes (some from 0-5 in one room!) and children are missing vital schooling in their early years.

There is a school down the road from us which is open for business 13 hours a day from 6am -7pm. The prices are huge but the school offer day care facilities as well as schooling and the children have separate areas to play in, have lessons and sleep.

I know on the few days in my childhood when my Mum (who is a midwife) was working and couldn’t pick me up I had to go to Mrs Spicer’s after school or more frequently to Auntie Sarah’s before school. At the moment there appears to be little of that community spirit around. It is expected that the school would offer this service.

In light of all this new information we decided to rearrange our timings to open our school gates at 7am and the children are supervised until lessons begin at 8am. It is a really long, really tiring 9 hour day and that is just for the teachers. You look at the children and you see just how tired they are. For me this is a complete quandary. I love how passionately education is valued here by families and how important it is for these parents. Most of them do not earn a British minimum wage equivalent but save to afford 60 pounds a month, per child to send them to school. It’s admirable and forces me to ask the question how many parents back home would pay that for school. But on the other hand I am forced to ask how fair it is on these children to be (in some cases) here from 7am-4.30pm? The answer I come to is that life is tougher here than I have appreciated despite living here for 5 months already. Zimbabweans must be admired for their 100% commitment to their child’s education in spite of the adversities they face.

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