Above: Pastor Taurai Sithole shows ZDDT's Field Officer, Pamela Mackay, the boundary of Thembalezizwe Community Centre while his wife, Tendai, looks on.
BULAWAYO –The future is not necessarily gloomy and bleak for children at Trenance squatter camps, thanks to Thembalezizwe Community Centre’s intervention.
Situated at Number 1 Bulawayo Drive, right on the boundary of Bulawayo and Umguza Rural District, Thembalezizwe, which means “hope for the outcasts”, has become a refuge for the downtrodden kids, most of whom are orphans and born to HIV positive parents.
The community institution par-excellence, runs an Early Childhood Development (ECD) school targeting children at the squatter camps dotted around Trenance.
ZDDT News recently visited the institution, the brainchild of Thembalezizwe Christian Church, to get first-hand information on the services it offers to the community.
“We started this pre-school eight years ago,” said Pastor Taurai Sithole, Director at Thembalezizwe.
“This is how it started. As a church we saw kids roaming around the community and, as the leader of the church, I tried to find out what was causing them not to go to school, only to find out that some of these kids did not have parents; they were orphans.”
Sithole said having prayed concerning the plight of those children some of whom were already eight years old, they then thought of becoming part of the solution to the problem.
Above: Pastor Sithole and his wife.
“We then started by gathering them to sing songs and to tell them bible stories; it was like a
kids club and not a proper school. We therefore later developed it from there to become the ECD centre that it is today.”
With a current enrolment of over 40 kids, Thembalezizwe, yet to be registered with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, was built with assistance from a United Kingdom-based church.
“Even if you go to Trenance Primary School, you will find that kids from our centre are doing very well as most of them are always in the top 10,” Sithole said.
He said the first ever batch of pupils to pass through Thembalezizwe were now doing Form One.
Parents, Sithole said, were paying nominal school fees of US$6 per term as a way of getting them involved in the programme.
Pupils, who have lessons between 8am and 1pm from Tuesday to Friday every week, are also fed during school hours to improve their health.
Above: Pastor Sithole explains to ZDDT crew what Thembalezizwe is all about.
“Monday is the planning day for our staff; we normally plan as staff and pray because we believe whatever we are doing, we need to align ourselves with God,” explained Sithole.
The school has four volunteer teachers who are running it.
“But, as a church, we found it helpful to also assist them and currently we are paying them US$90 which is not enough because some of them are paying rentals which are pegged at US$60 or US$70 each. They also need to eat and they need to send their kids to school. It is just an allowance which we are saying, as a church, we do not have money but we see their heart and the good work they are doing, so it is just a way of appreciating them,” said Sithole.
During the holidays, Sithole said, they make sure that, even if there are no classes, their staff goes from house to house visiting the kids, talking to their guardians and seeing how they are living.
He added: “In those home visits they will be making sure that they (staff members) pray with the guardians and encourage them to send kids to school.”
Above: Parents take their children home after classes at Thembalezizwe.