ZAKA – Students at Charingeno Primary School in Zaka district, Zimbabwe, gather around a water point, clutching their bottles and plates. They are ready to wash their hands, and quench their thirst while enjoying a hot meal – provided by the school feeding program. But this was not always the case.
Before March 2022, the school relied on a single bush pump as its only water source, which often resulted in long queues and conflicts among students, teachers, and community members. The situation was especially difficult for the early childhood development (ECD) students, says the school headmistress Mary Mukwenha.
“Without water, we had no ponds, no functional garden. The children would suffer watering the orchard,” recalls Mukwenha, highlighting the profound difference the water scheme has made in the daily lives of students and teachers alike.
The inception of Charingeno Piped Water Scheme in March 2022, funded by the Department for International Development and implemented under the Zimbabwe Climate Adaptation Water and Energy Project, marked a turning point for the school and its surrounding areas.
This initiative, bolstered by the Education Development Fund and guided by UNICEF, heralded a new era of access to clean and safe water for both the school and the wider community.
Multiple water points within the school premises and into the surrounding community have allowed the school to have functional garden and an orchard.
“The water piped scheme decongested the water crisis,” said Mukwenha. “Before that we used to put a timetable for students, teachers and then the community to be able to access water from the one water source that was at the school – a bush pump,” she adds.
Yet, water is just one piece of the puzzle. The school grapples with challenges ranging from ensuring adequate nutrition for its students to providing quality education in a resource-constrained environment.
“At the moment we are only able to offer two meals a week, which although is not the best position but it’s a great motivator for our students. Some of our students walk up to 9 kilometers to reach school so the provision of a hot meal through the school feeding program serves as a crucial incentive for attendance.
“The feeding scheme is supported by parents and supplemented by initiatives like the school’s fish pond, which aims to not only feed the students but also generate income,” Mukwenha says.
However, the journey towards educational excellence doesn’t end with meals and water. With limited resources and technological infrastructure, the school faces hurdles in delivering modern education.
Only 40 percent of parents can afford the modest school fees of US$27 a term, and the school’s access to digital services remains limited due to erratic electricity and a scarcity of computers. The school only has eight functional computers.
Despite these challenges, the school has managed to achieve a commendable 57 percent pass rate at Grade 7, exceeding the 2023 Grade 7 Examination national pass rate of 45.57%.
Through initiatives like the School Improvement Grant (SIG), and support from development partners, the school has transformed its learning environment, from fixing desks to building new infrastructure, adds Mukwenha.
Taungana Ndoro, the Director of Communications and Advocacy in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, praised the school for using the Schools Improvement Grant effectively. He said the grant enabled the school to provide quality education to rural children, who often face disadvantages compared to urban students.
“It is very clear that the government (and development partners) efforts to provide water sanitation and hygiene and boreholes at this school has ensured that it is self-sufficient to grow its own food and even have a vibrant orchard,” Ndoro says.
Looking ahead, Mukwenha envisions even greater support from government, parents, community, and development partners to ensure that every child at Charingeno Primary has the opportunity to succeed.
With continued collaboration and investment, the school hopes to overcome the remaining challenges and achieve its vision of becoming a model school in the district.