The Zimbabwe West Conference women’s organization has embarked on what they hope will be a life-changing project: the establishment of Barrington Christian School, the first United Methodist private school in the urban part of Harare and the first to be run by United Methodist women.
The school is expected to open its doors in early 2021.
The efforts by Rukwadzano RweWadzimai, the church’s women’s organization, will complement the government’s goal to have a school within five kilometers of every child in the country, while also meeting the demands for United Methodists who wish to send their children to an elite private school run by the church.
Children in Zimbabwe often walk long distances to school, which can expose them to serious dangers. Stories of rapes, abduction and other abuses of young children are regular occurrences.
The Rev. Solomon Mawoyo, Zimbabwe West Conference education secretary, called the women’s move “bold, positive and encouraging.” He helps coordinate efforts between the government and the church in education development.
“Zimbabwe has a deficit of 2,052 schools to meet the required 5-kilometer distance to be travelled by children to the nearest school. I am proud that the board of RRW has managed to cover a portion. … These developments are just but a milestone in the expansion of the church,” Mawoyo said.
He said the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area already has set a pace by establishing 39 United Methodist schools in the country: 19 in the Zimbabwe West Conference and 20 in the Zimbabwe East Conference.
Mawoyo said the board of the women’s organization will be responsible for the recruitment and appointment of the headmaster and deputy, and the school will be responsible for the payment of staff members. The church will appoint a chaplain for the spiritual well-being of students and staff.
“Know that your journey, which you have started, is not easy,” Mawoyo said. “Remain focused; success is coming.”
Mwazvita Patricia Katsidzira-Madondo, a board member of Africa University and chairperson for the Zimbabwe East Conference’s United Methodist Women Center in Mutare, was the guest of honor during the launch.
“This initiative will see the existing Women Centre Kingaroy Farm in Harare being converted into an elite private Barrington Christian School, the first of this kind within the church to be located in an urban area.”
The school will be constructed in three phases: the early childhood development center, junior and senior schools. Madondo said at full operation, which is expected in 2023, the school will create an estimated 66 jobs.
Each class will have about 15 children, with 135 students expected to be enrolled in the early childhood program and junior schools, the first of the phases to be completed.
“Get joy in planting a tree today whose shade you will not enjoy, but the fact that someone will benefit from its shade is enough to make you participate and contribute,” Madondo said.
Plans are for the campus to have state-of-the-art science and computer labs, a library, music and art rooms. There also are plans for a sports facility for tennis, swimming, soccer, netball and hockey.
Rosemary Nyarugwe, principal at Nyadire Teachers College, complimented the women’s initiative and said it is an important aspect in the education fraternity.
“Having small classes of 15 children is very noble because the teacher would easily have one-on-one tutorship and be in a position to pick the weaknesses of each pupil and address them,” Nyarugwe said.
She touted the education and sports curriculum.
“Children should have hands-on education, where skills development … (is) sharpened and tangible results are produced at an early stage (at the) early childhood development level.
“Gone are the days when a child was forced to concentrate on academics only. The new curriculum is emphasizing developing skills for digital transformation and sports for social development. Many are earning a living through sports, hence the need to recognize it,” Nyarugwe said.
“In addition, having pupils from a United Methodist Church institution from early childhood development up to university, the church will be assured of maintained values and morals.”
Joyce Chikuni, board chairperson of Barrington, said the school is situated on a 3.8-hectare plot (more than 9 acres).
“The already constructed infrastructures need partitioning only for the school to open its doors,” she said. “A total of $88,500 is needed for the partitioning, purchasing of furniture and textbooks. And fundraising activities are already lined up.”
The Rev. Vienna Mutezo, Zimbabwe West Conference connectional ministries director and deputy administrative assistant to the bishop, encouraged the women to look beyond the country’s current economic and financial crisis.
“Let us not look at the crisis, but pick positive traits from this crisis and optimize on them,” Mutezo said.
Rebecca Tendai Gurupira, coordinator for the church’s Ministry of Women, Youth and Children, applauded the women’s efforts and encouraged them never to look back.
“Remember, a journey of many miles started with one step. We are the first steps to this journey,” she said.
“As a woman organization, we will accommodate at least five orphans and vulnerable children on full scholarship from the Zimbabwe West Conference’s Rukwadzano RweWadzimai coffers. This will be our paying back to the society.”
The Rev. Henry Luckson Chareka, superintendent for the Murehwa Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe District and RRW cabinet representative, said God should be made the highest priority.
“Let us keep in mind that in whatever we do, we are all important, but God is supreme,” he said. “This stage does not need lazy people, but those committed.”
Chingwe is a communicator for the Zimbabwe East Conference.