Squatters set up illegal school
SQUATTERS at Ngozi Mine in Bulawayo have established an illegal school within the camp as they shun formal education arguing that not only is it expensive but their children are also subjected to stereotyping within formal schools.
The illegal school is complete with a school building, improvised teachers, electricity connections and a makeshift library has been established to cater for the plus 300 pupils who are all of primary school going ages.
The matter initially emerged during last Wednesday’s full council meeting where it was revealed that the State and Zanu-PF number one job — something President Mugabe said the minister had made clear in the aftermath of the Tsholotsho Declaration. The ruling party’s President and First Secretary said this at Chipadze Stadium in Bindura, Mashonaland Central, squatters are now so daring that they have now established a fully functional society after the operation of this school.
It was revealed that investigations had shown that in some cases the squatters owned houses but preferred to rent them out while they opted to squat. Ward Two Councillor, Sithabile Mataka-Moyo revealed that there were squatters who were cropping up in her ward, with their camps being located close to residential houses.
“The Acting Director of Housing and Community Services, Mr Dictor Khumalo advised that Ngozi Mine and Killarney squatters were a challenge. Even if they were removed from the areas they usually returned within a short space of time. Some of them own houses which they rent out elsewhere preferring to squat. At Ngozi Mine an illegal school had now been developed. Rangers would be sent to the recently established illegal squatter areas,” reads the report.
According to the council’s records Ngozi Mine is an old settlement that is known to have been established in the 1990s with the dwellers having been attracted by scavenging at the Richmond municipal dump site.
In Killarney, the slum settlement was established a long time back with over 100 units which are scattered around the bush opposite Killarney to the east. A visit to Ngozi Mine squatter camp last Friday revealed that indeed the squatters were providing their children “home” schooling as they claimed they could not afford formal education.
They claimed that to them this was more of home and they did not envisage moving out any time soon hence the need to provide their children with some form of education. The school has reportedly been in operation for the past two years with education authorities doing nothing to either shut it down or provide some form of assistance as the “teachers” are also parent squatters who are not qualified to teach.
In an interview, one of the teachers claimed that they had realised that their children were shunning formal education because of abuse they were allegedly facing at the formal schools.
“When our children go to these formal schools they are labelled as Ngozi Mine children, they are even made to sit
alone, at the end of the day they feel left out hence shun going to these schools. Eventually our pastor realised that there were a lot of children who were now joining us adults in scavenging at the landfill site hence he realised the need for the establishment of this school.
“To date we have over 300 pupils of primary school going pupils who we are taking through lessons on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 7am to 1pm. We mainly teach them on the basics of reading and writing so that even when they join the scavenging brigade they know how to differentiate between dangerous and safe waste,” said Mrs Sithembile Tshuma.
Questioned on whether they knew that the government had introduced a new education curriculum, Mrs Sitimina Muzah another volunteer teacher professed ignorance saying their duty was to merely teach their children the basics of education.
“We don’t know anything about this new curriculum but what we saw is that there is a need within our community, which is that of educating our children. Yes as volunteer teachers we might not be educated but we do our best to teach our children the basics, which they need to tackle the world out there,” said Mrs Muzah.
Another teacher, Mrs Jacqueline Ndiweni revealed that they were now in talks with council officials to see whether they could not provide land for the building of a proper school that will especially cater for children from Ngozi Mine.
“We have even identified the land and are now working with Joshua Malinga to help establish a formal school, we are appealing to well-wishers to also ship in in this endeavour,” said Mrs Ndiweni.
This news crew also managed to tour the “school” and they noted that not only did the school have makeshift chalk boards, which parents had collected from the dumpsite but there were makeshift chairs and a library area. The “school” also has a toilet facility which is maintained by the caretaker who is paid by the parents of the children.
A couple of years ago the local authority revealed plans to formalise six informal settlements in the outskirts of the city in a bid to fend off the squatting problem. In the plans the local authority noted that they were working on upgrading the peri-urban settlements, formalising and putting in place the requisite infrastructure. The local authority wanted to upgrade the existing water and sewer infrastructure to meet the anticipated demand within the slumps.
Some of these informal settlements that are set for upgrading include Cabatsha, Trenance, Ngozi Mine, Durnkirk, Willsgrove and Killarney.