In October, I was lucky enough to travel to Zimbabwe for one week and experience Dingani Primary School. During my trip, I spent four wonderful nights at the exclusive eco-lodge Elephant’s Eye, Hwange. I spent my days looking for game in the magnificent Hwange National Park, relaxing at the lodge by the waterhole with a gin and tonic or exploring the various cultural activities close.
The most special experience was visiting Dingani Primary School, which is a short drive from Elephant’s Eye in the small town of Dete. Dingani Primary School is one of the projects that Grow Africa, the responsible tourism initiative founded by Jenman African Safaris and Hideaways, supports. Grow Africa’s focus is to make a positive impact on the environment, society and economy in travel destinations.
As a UK expat, who has lived in South Africa for the past eleven years, I am often shocked at the standard of education in developing nations compared to the UK. When I arrived at Dingani, it quickly became apparent that this school is like none I had ever visited.
This rural school has over 300 pupils aged between four and twelve who are sharing six small classrooms. Two of the classroom’s roofs were destroyed in a recent storm and are now unusable. The younger children work in classrooms with benches as there are not enough desks for all the students.
I was shown around the school by the headmistress Mrs. Indiweni who detailed the problems, which the school, staff and pupils endured daily. There is no drinking water available so the children take turns on the 4-km walk to collect water from the well. Classroom floors are made of rough concrete, corrugated iron roofs are leaking, and toilets are just a hole in the ground with a roof. There are not enough teachers to cover all classes, resources are limited and the learning conditions are dire. I saw that some of the kids had school uniforms; others didn’t even have shoes. What a comparison to the classrooms of my childhood! It is remarkable that these teachers continue to teach with such passion despite the limited basic resources.
After I had toured the entire school and listened to the staff’s problems – it was playtime! The children who swarmed around me were excited to have their photos taken. I was certainly not expecting 300 mini models posing and insisting on photo opportunities but it was very heart-warming. No matter what adversities these children encounter, I found their warmth and kindness overwhelming.
My time at the school was the most authentic, meaningful and inspiring experience I have ever had. The visit showed me just how lucky we are but also how easy it is to help those less privileged. Grow Africa is supporting Dingani to repair their damaged roof and maintain the school so that students have an improved learning environment. Pack for a Purpose is providing the school with great resources and sponsorship to uplift the children and empower the Dete community.
I hope that next year when I return, the school buildings will be looking as joyful and progressive as the awe-inspiring teachers and children that I encountered during my visit.