Home » General » How Oprah Changed Hurungwe [opinion]

Before Winfrey’s donation, which was channelled through Tererai Trent who grew up here and went to the school, Matau was an eyesore with dilapidated buildings which also housed stray goats and cattle from the neighbourhood. The scantily roofed classrooms did not have doors or window panes.

It was also common then to find owls nesting in the classrooms.

The school had an eerie and creepy air around it, like a post-war settlement.

All this has changed, though.

Fortune smiled at Matau in May 2011 after the popular international television personality revealed that a former pupil of Matau School, Dr Tererai Trent (now based in America) was her all-time favourite guest and donated $1,5 million so that she could build her own school in her old village in Zimbabwe.

Winfrey made the donation in fulfilment of Dr Trent’s lifetime dream of improving standards at Matau Primary School and giving it a new look.

Save Children Zimbabwe was then tasked with managing the reconstruction work and literacy boosting programmes while 400 volunteers from Matau and surrounding communities moulded nearly 400 000 bricks for their own contribution.

The reconstruction work is set to wind up end of this month with a hand-over take-over ceremony expected anytime soon after.

Construction and equipping of the library at an additional cost of $500 000 has seen the donation from the Oprah Winfrey Foundation reaching $2 million mark as the project winds up.

Dr Trent, who grew up in Matau Village in what is now Ward 25, Hurungwe West, dropped out of school after getting married at the age of 11. She had five children in the early marriage.

With assistance from some people in the village, she made her way to the US in 1998.

While in the US Trent obtained a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education.

In 2003 she studied further and graduated with a Masters degree before she later acquired her doctorate degree from Western Michigan University in 2009.

Her thesis focused on HIVAIDS prevention programmes for women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa.

Dr Trent has transformed her old rural school.

Today, the school stands in an enviable state, boasting of an array of facilities that have since placed it a cut above the rest.

The overhaul of the school saw the construction of 12 classrooms including two ECD rooms, an administration block, two state-of-the-art teachers’ houses and a fully equipped library with modern books of up to A-Level, two laptops and 15 top range desktop computers.

The library, which also serves members of the community including surrounding schools, has books that also cater for tertiary education.

It is also equipped with heavy duty printers while all classrooms, including the administration block, are painted and equipped with modern furniture.

The school also boasts of 16 pit latrines which were constructed under the same project.

With an enrolment of more than 1 000 pupils, the school enjoys tap water from a borehole and pump installed under the same scheme while some teachers who used to endure staying under leaking roofs of old staff quarters now enjoy the comfort of eight, smartly renovated houses.

During his tour of Matau School recently, Minister of State for Provincial Affairs in Mashonaland West, Cde Faber Chidarikire, hailed Dr Trent for remembering her village back home.

“Our daughters and sons in the Diaspora must emulate Tererai. She remembers her roots. This is what those in the Diaspora must do,” he said.

Cde Chidarikire added that the rural electrification programme spearheaded by President Mugabe was aimed at bringing people in rural communities to the same footing with their counterparts in urban settings.

He urged the school head Mr Aleck Godfrey Mupazvirihwo to maximise the use of e-learning for the good of Matau pupils.

“With the modern educational facilities that you have here at Matau, you should thank God that you have Harare at your doorstep. Make sure the children are exposed to e-learning. Children here should operate at the same footing with their counterparts at Harare schools,” he said.

Through her initiative to ensure that every child at Matau has a hot meal at school, Dr Trent has also embarked on a canteen project.

On completion the facility will provide a hot meal to every child in the school on a daily basis.

So far villages have started contributing 10 000 bricks each towards the project.

After the canteen project Dr Trent has plans to establish an art and craft centre where talented pupils – including parents and school leavers – will have an opportunity to showcase their skills in areas like carving, pottery, drawing and weaving, among others.

Hurungwe Rural District Council chief executive officer Mr Joram Moyo said as the responsible authority for Matau School his council appreciated Dr Trent’s desire to see the disaantaged communities being uplifted.

“This is an invaluable contribution she has made in elevating educational standards in our community. This is highly commendable.

“This is what we expect our sons and daughters to do, particularly those with opportunities to help their communities, whether they are based in Zimbabwe or abroad.

“This is really good for the success of Zim-Asset (Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation),” he said.

Villagers and school children hailed Oprah Winfrey but reserved special gratitude to Dr Trent who remembered her humble beginnings and has transformed Matau into a whole new school.

Villagers who spoke to The Herald reminded sons and daughters of Hurungwe to remember their roots, and urged them to do what they could to improve the lives of those less privileged while also contributing to national development.

Education is highly valued in Zimbabwe, although the country suffers a number of challenges regarding infrastructure, trained teachers and funding.

Source : The Herald