“The poorest person on earth is not the person who has no job, no cars, no money and no house. The poorest person is the one who has no vision. Visionlessness is poverty in disguise.” Israelmore Ayivor. This is a very true reflection of the community of Singeni in one of the very remote areas in Nkayi. This community has defied all odds of being a forgotten and lost community and is making a name for themselves. The community through its youths has joined hands with our organization and introduced activities that empower communities to speak and take a stand to claim their basic rights. This area is located at a 60km peg when you turn right at Ken Maur (St Lukes hospital in Lupane) from Bulawayo and proceed farther into the rural communities, the area is just right at the border between Lupane district and Nkayi area in the Gwamba valley.
What inspires a visitor is that this community has a vision as they have put together locally available resources and constructed two school cottages in a newly established makeshift secondary school. They have constructed makeshift roads that do not have bridges. The youths have constructed an improvised dam that was sadly washed away due to poor materials that were used. When you interact with students, local youths` community members, you feel the zeal and energy to bring about change in this remote community after so many of neglect from the government 34 years after the political independence. The training has motivated a few who have been trained to unshackle themselves and shake poverty out of their shoulders.
The youths in this community have been trained on leadership, local governance and advocacy and have shared amazing stories of their dreams and aspirations; that they have been encouraging parents to contribute funds to build a secondary school. The secondary school currently existing there is made up of huts made of mud and grass, when one approaches the school at first is made to believe it’s a homestead but will be shocked to see pupils in uniforms emerging from the grass thatched makeshift huts. The nearest secondary school is about 40kilometres away from the area. Teachers use a tree as their administration block.
This community has no accessible roads, they do not travel during the rainy season, and no access to network for communication, no radio reception, the nearest clinic is over 40 kilometers away, the nearest is police post is also 40kilometres to report criminal activities and no shops to purchase necessities that makes people function.
The organization has experienced spin chilling stories of child sexual abuses, physical abuse and violent murder cases. One story that sits with the organization is one little girl who was handcuffed by the uncle and thoroughly bashed for a very flimsy and trivial allegation. The little girl had handcuff scars all over her arms. The organization took it upon itself and working with the local leadership to assist the little girl by reporting the matter to the police, prosecution took place and the man was charged for a criminal offence. The other sad story is a student who was sexual abused by a teacher and she opened after participating in the organization`s peer education and leadership programme.
The organization has helped to reduce school drops out due to pregnancy for the last term in 2013, the first term and part of second term in 2014 as confirmed by school authorities. Students were trained in peer education, that covered leadership, advocacy and counseling in 2013. The school had a prevalence rate of 5 students dropping out per term due to pregnancy but since the inception of the programme last year no pregnancy case has been recorded at the school.
Female students from the secondary are calling for more awareness programmes to reach out to the local leadership so that they are aware of the rights of children who are frequently sexual molested and physical abused and develop early warning mechanisms to report perpetrators.
Out of school youths lament lack of knowledge and information since the community is cut from entire country, no radio reception, no network, skills that can help to initiate activities that can bring meaningful development. Consequently most youths resort to alcohol abuse and young girls fall pregnant and drop out of school due to lack on information and confidence to make informed choices. The youths want to be heard, take part, act and argue that they are fed of languishing in the vestiges of underdevelopment, neglect, marginalization and well calculated ostracism.
The organization wishes to invite partners who are willing to have a firsthand experiences/ stories to join it when it conducts its youth and community sensitization meetings and/ or visit this community. The organizations seeks to reduce child sexual abuse in this community, build a sense of confidence to the youths to stand up and speak out and demand services that will transform the local community. Assist the local community to conduct advocacy meetings and demand a share from timber and other natural resources that are harvested within locality. Assist the community to engage authorities and complete the construction of the secondary school. Facilitate meetings with the ministry of health to establish a clinic in the community and engage the Zimbabwe Police Service to establish a police post in the community. The organization envisions empowered young people working with their communities towards their desired future.
Michael Mdladla Ndiweni