Lesedi School was established by the co-founders of Ngoko Safaris, Benson Siyawareva and Fiona Thompson. Both nurtured a long-held desire to make a difference to marginalized communities in Zimbabwe. In 2014, they decided to establish a school / community project in the Ntabayengwe Village, 14km from the town of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.
For many years, this community has survived by cattle raising and limited subsistence farming. The village is situated adjacent to the Zambezi National Park and Jafuta Forest area so human-wildlife conflict is rife. Education opportunities were poor and kids often dropped out of school.
Initially, the project comprised no more than a basic preschool structure and playground, built by Benson with mostly scavenged materials. When the preschool opened for registrations in January 2014 it was a nervous moment. A handful of children turned up, accompanied by some curious and rather skeptical parents. The community were expecting we would be “here today, gone tomorrow”.
Fast forward to the present day and mention of Lesedi Primary School creates a buzz of excitement. It is becoming known as a “center of excellence” within this rural area. An underlying sense of despair and lethargy within the community is gradually being replaced by belief and optimism. Confidence is growing, both in the children and the adults.
Thanks to the amazing and wholly unexpected support this project has received, development has moved at a fast pace. Here are a few of the achievements since the project started:
Although the community is situated relatively close to the Zambezi River, due to the steepness of the gorges it is not possible to collect water from the river.
One of our early objectives was the provision of a water supply to the school and wider community. Thanks to an extremely generous donation we accomplished this, with the community digging a 3km trench for the supply pipe. Several families have since connected their homes to the new water supply.
More recently, thanks to another donation, a bore hole has been drilled one kilometre from the school for use by both the community and the school.
The first addition to the initial, very basic preschool structure was an Early Childhood Development (ECD) classroom kindly donated by Rotary Club International in late 2015.
Since then, we have built three substantial classroom blocks. Each block has two classrooms along with offices for the teachers.
In addition to the classrooms, we have added an ablution block, kitchen rondavel with dining gazebo and a teachers’ cottage. Further land has been purchased from the community for future expansion and the land around the school buildings has been fenced to provide additional security for the children.
Equipping a fast expanding school is a challenging proposition. However, with the help of our supporters we have managed to purchase desks and sufficient text books for students to share. The Zambezi Schoolbook Project has donated two consignments of books, helping to create a valued library resource.
Donations of supplies from visitors to the school are invaluable in keeping the school supplied with stationery, along with providing educational toys for the ECD classes.
Despite the initial lack of electricity and internet in the area, we were very keen to introduce computer lessons. The school committee approved the purchase of a small generator and we received donations of new and used laptops. The Ministry of Education supplied an IT teacher. All pupils now receive computer lessons, something that really sets Lesedi apart for a rural school.
A key objective for the trustees was to connect Lesedi to mains electricity. As the school is located 1.8km from the nearest mains supply this was always going to be a costly exercise. We were thrilled to receive some generous donations towards this project, enabling us to bring mains electricity to the school in mid-2017.
Electricity will make a huge difference as it will allow us to connect the school to internet, enabling access to a whole new world of experiences.
Nutrition & Welfare
A nutritious breakfast and lunch is provided on each school day for all pupils, reducing the incidence of malnourishment. Porridge oats are supplied by World Vision and are supplemented with vitamins. There has been a visible improvement in energy levels since the start of the project.
We have also facilitated the introduction of a mobile medical clinic. There is a high incidence of HIV and AIDS in the community so the clinic allows regular access to life saving medication. The trustees plan to build a clinic once permission is granted by the authorities.