Mambanje is one of the most remote villages in the Hwange Region, closest to the border of Hwange National Park
Reliance on subsistence farming makes funding for education of the community’s children hard to come by
Up until May 2017 teachers appointed to the Primary School had to live in cramped, dilapidated conditions, away from their families, making it difficult to stay motivated to their posts
The community came together to contribute and construct comfortable accommodation to retain high-quality teachers for the school
Environmentally conscious techniques were used; Hydrform brick making, solar borehole and electricity, etc
Local labour and skills were developed, result in opportunities to stimulate the local economy
More comfortable teacher's accommodation works towards the goal of having a satellite high school built in the area
Mambanje is one of the most remote and underdeveloped communities in the Hwange Region. It is located on the border of Hwange National Park, the closest village to the park’s boundaries and is, therefore, one of the most critical to realise benefits from the protection of natural resources in the area. We have partnered with the community in addressing their development issues having engaged with the community since 2007, supporting income generating projects as well as the community and school through improved infrastructure and resources, capacity building and support of orphaned and vulnerable children.
The road to Mambanje is so run down it takes over an hour to travel the 15km from Dete to get there. The community relies mainly on subsistence farming, which is not a very reliable or profitable income, making the funding for education of the community’s children hard to come by.
Until May 2017, up to seven teachers were sharing one dilapidated four-roomed cottage at Mambanje Primary School. The cottage had no indoor toilet or cooking facilities, with the teachers being forced to use a fire in a makeshift outdoor kitchen. It is very difficult for government-appointed teachers from different centres in Zimbabwe, far away from family in the remote village to feel comfortable a maintain commitment to their posts. Students would have to endure continuous changes in teaching staff as well as long periods of inadequate staff numbers.
A plan of action was agreed with the community who moulded bricks, cleared the ground for foundation work and offered hosting services for builders. Utilizing the concept of community involvement, the building process saw members of Mambanje Village come together and provide labour towards the project. Members of the community were awarded food hampers in exchange for the work and time that they brought to the project. The area went through a harsh drought at the time, the “Food for Work” program came in at a time when it was most needed. More importantly, the community members involved learned new skills as they were taught how to build. A beautiful teacher’s cottage with multiple rooms, store rooms and equiped kitchen areas was constructed.
Of particular excitement was the introduction of a new technology to Mambanje; a Hydraform brickmaking and building technique. A process that produces environmentally friendly bricks that consist of 90% mortar and only 10% cement, with a dry stacking brick laying technique also reduces the cement content of the entire building. The brick making machine also has the potential to generate additional revenue for the school through sales of bricks and construction projects.
The Mambanje Teachers House is a pivotal point in the development of the community, providing a functional and beautiful house which allows the school to secure qualified long-term teaching staff. This is a huge challenge faced by many remote schools. However, most of all, it’s a beacon of pride and hope. The community have built the house with their own hands with the generous donation of the Klein Family Foundation who provided the grant.
When the African Bush Camps Foundation began working with the Mambanje community in 2012, the needs of the school and community seemed overwhelming with no electricity at the school or community, no running water, classrooms without doors and very little furniture. The last 7km of road to Mambanje took 1 hour to negotiate with a 4×4 vehicle, a drive that today takes just 15 minutes. There was very little in the way of teaching resources and the teachers who did make the 15km walk from the nearest village of Dete were accommodated into a 2 roomed cottage and school attendance by the children was poor, at best.
Today the school is virtually unrecognizable from 2012. There is a vegetable garden, feeding program, solar power, running water, new desks, E-learning on laptops, brightly painted school buildings, a chicken project and fowl run, AND the newly built teacher’s house. This means that qualified long-term teachers will invest in the school and become part of the framework of change. Something we have already seen with Rebecca, the headmistress who has been at the school for over a year now, buying into the concept and promise of the new teacher’s house.
The building of the new teacher’s house not only relieves the current teacher accommodation pressure at the school, but is also in line with our overall goal of seeing Mambanje Primary School have its own satellite high school in the near future. The new teacher’s house, although still not enough, will help to accommodate the new teachers at the planned satellite high school as well. Graduating Grade 7’s from the school will no longer have to walk up to 28km a day in dangerous wildlife areas to get to the nearest secondary school.