Autumn visit: a maths clinic, boarding school and beautiful singing

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My visit to Tariro’s projects in Zimbabwe this April and May were filled with some wonderful highlights:

I had with me this time Andrew Ellis, a considerable mathematician who agreed to come and help my pre-O level kids with their maths. That was quite a learning experience for him having only taught at university level before. We got together about fourteen teenagers from St Augustines and Chipinge and Andrew coached them at different levels.

Maths clinic - various places

It was a great success. All the kids responded well to one to one attention. Some boys – Alban, Nyasha whom I thought were pretty dim at maths Andrew said were really brilliant. Some of the youngsters really came to see the fun of doing maths (something I never learned) and I hope it will have helped them turn a corner in their studies. I was hugely impressed to see Tatenda, Munyaradzi and Liberty going off to bed at night clutching their maths books to read in bed! How many teenagers do that?
It was also fun for me getting to know the kids better and seeing how they have grown – in personality particularly. Liberty and Nyasha, who were such frightened little scraps of humanity last year when I took them on have morphed into delightful 12 year olds. Both have put on weight (our feeding) and Liberty has become a real bundle of cheek and fun; Nyasha is quieter but not frightened any more. And it was nice to see Alban who has been a typically insecure teenager for some time assuming leadership of the group, especially when I produced a pack of cards and he organised their uproarious games and kept them good humoured.

Then Brenda, Rejoice and Alliance, the three girls, all very bright, also showed themselves to be great singers. We transformed the Sisters’ mass each morning with sung versions of the Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus.

St Augustine's orphans
A new experience for me was teenage boys’ bathing habits. I sent the three boys to the bathroom each morning with an instruction “Be quick – Andrew needs it too.” 20 minutes later they were still going strong, and there was no hot water! It took some violence on my part to get them out – though to be fair they mopped up the mess they made without being told.

Tatenda and Anesu are two of our boys whom we took on last year as their primary school teachers asked us to help them: both had done exceptionally well in end of school exams but couldn’t go on to secondary without fees. Both made a good start in local secondary schools but have slipped badly since.  In Tatenda’s case it is because he lives in a very overcrowded home and his parents struggle to find enough food for the family. I suspect Tatenda finds it easier to get out of the house and find entertainment around the township. Anesu is a dreamy boy who was in a class of rather poor quality students who didn’t push him at all.

St Augustine’s mission has a very fine church school on it so we moved the two boys there – Anesu as a day scholar and Tatenda as a boarder. Tatenda was thrilled to be offered the chance to be a boarder, but when the day came for him to be dropped into a boarding establishment of 450 boys he was terrified. Normally ebullient and self confident he couldn’t smile, and it didn’t help that he didn’t have the right clothes. However, after his first night in the dormitory (of about 30 boys!) he emerged smiling and seems happily settled. Of course it costs a lot more – but will be worth it if they now perform academically the way they should.

Tariro Youth Project in Harare is going well. I spent an afternoon with them there and they had just had an hour’s session with their counsellor who is splendid, getting them to talk about love and relationships, and I left them preparing for a barbeque (we call it a braaivleis). Tariro at universityAll seem to be doing well: Fidelis (whom I accused about a year ago of being idle) got excellent O level results. Wellington (pictured here) is hoping to get into university to do pharmacy.

He had excellent A levels, but we found him working in an uncle’s brickmaking yard. Delight Gomera now has a full time job in an accounts department. Tariro is loving being at University. Byron, in a good job, is soon to get married. All of them seem happy, confident and untroubled young people which is amazing considering their background. It says a lot for their counsellor, Barbra and the well balanced atmosphere of Tariro House.

Unfortunately, the economy is in steady decline. An incompetent and corrupt government does nothing to improve it, just makes it worse. Money is in very short supply and so are jobs.
There has been a catastrophic drought in many parts of the country. Our kids in Shurugwi, always a dry area will be particularly badly affected by this, and we have to think what help we can give them and some of the other children who will be hungry One response to this is a new way of concentrated farming which we hope to teach some of the sisters and some of our older children.

This should help avoid food shortages in the future as well as being environmentally much more friendly than traditional ways.
I hope this shows how important your support is. You have helped to transform these young people’s lives and it is really lovely for me to see the change. Thank you so much!

Nicolas CR

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