Viva Review 2010
Viva + 10 local churches + 20 projects = children learning to read It’s 18:00, and as the sun begins to set people all over the city of Harare are preparing their evening meals. But in Rudo Mutangadura’s home there is no room for cooking. Packed with busy volunteers, piles of paperwork and constantly ringing mobile phones, her house is now the office of Viva Network Zimbabwe. Although inflation stabilised due to the introduction of the US dollar last year, Zimbabwe’s economic situation remains unpredictable. The country has continued to struggle with a steep rise in the cost of living, limited access to healthcare, and a huge drop in the provision of education, with over 90% of rural schools now closed down.Yet in the midst of all this instability, including such a severe lack of funds that they had to give up their office building and work from their co-ordinator’s own home, our Zimbabwe network has united more than 30 Harare-based projects and churches to help meet the educational needs of the city’s children. Due to the frequent school closures and teacher strikes, many children are having their education disrupted. Our bridging schools, which offer catch-up education in English and Maths, still continue to run through four local churches staffed by teachers and project workers from within the network. More than 80 children, including 50 who could not even read or write, began the schools in January and are now being taught basic numeracy and literacy and receiving regular help with their homework. Thanks to donations from another local project the schools are now also able to give the children one nutritious meal at lunch every day, something which their own families are often unable to offer them.
Many children are also unable to attend school because the financial needs of their families make earning a living a necessity; yet education is the very thing that could break them out of that cycle of poverty. So this year the network has brought school to the streets. The mobile Active Learning Library (a large bus filled with books, educational games and crafts) has gone out once a week to serve almost 100 children between the ages of 6 and 15 years who live or work on the streets of central Harare. The children get to play a game, choose a book from the library, and then do a craft activity with volunteers. “Although at first the kids were a little unsure of the library, this year has seen huge progress,” reports Rudo, Harare network co-ordinator. “The older children now regularly request to borrow the book they were going through in the session, and all the grade one children can retell every story that has been read to them over the past 6 months!” Alongside meeting the children’s educational needs, the network has also been investing in other ways of caring for them: training the people and projects working with them every day. This year has seen 30 local church and project staff begin the Viva Equip People course, learning very practical child-care skills to help them look after children in a way that is not only loving but truly relevant and effective. “The lack of office space has certainly been difficult,” says Rudo, “but we are very hopeful about the future.We have seen children living and working on the streets develop a love for books and reading, we have seen vulnerable children in poor communities beginning to understand maths concepts, and we have seen relationships really grow between staff and children on the streets and in the projects. Out of all the difficulties has come a very good year!”