Family Strengthening in Zimbabwe
SOS at the heart of the community
SOS Social Centre Bulawayo is active right at the heart of the community in which it lies. Supporting grassroots initiatives in education is one way in which the programme can strengthen the community as a whole, while focussing on vulnerable children.
Sobukhazi High School is a community school with around 1,800 pupils. Of these children, almost 100 are "sponsored" by SOS Children's Villages Zimbabwe through the family strengthening and "back to school" programmes. These children would not have had the opportunity to go to school if the SOS Social Centre had not identified them, and their families need support.
Rather than pay the school directly for the children's school fees, SOS Social Centre Bulawayo supports the school as a whole by providing materials that will benefit all of the pupils. For example, recently, SOS Social Centre Bulawayo assisted the school by finding the materials needed to repair 90 chairs and 90 desks. Once the materials had been bought, the school's practical craft subject pupils, such as those taking woodwork and metalwork classes, were able to restore broken furniture using the materials supplied by the SOS Social Centre.
In another suburb of Bulawayo, Makokoba, the SOS Social Centre family strengthening programme is working with community members to set up a community library. Lotshe School heard about the proposal and made two school rooms available to house the library/resource centre.
SOS Social Centre Bulawayo provided tables and chairs, as well as both secondary and primary school text books. Children take turns to visit the library as space is still an issue and so far over forty children a week regularly use the library. However, it means that the children have a reasonable place in which to do their homework. The resource centre also promotes a reading culture and access to the materials for school that most of us would take for granted.
The library is run by Mr Vincent Nyathi, a volunteer from the community. Mr Nyathi has four children, two of whom attend Sobukhazi High and two who attend Lotshe School. The four children attend school now that the family is being supported by the SOS Social Centre as part of the "back to school" programme. The family came to the attention of SOS Children's Village Bulawayo as Mr Nyathi had retired from teaching due to ill health and the family were finding it hard to make ends meet. Now that the family is being supported by the SOS Social Centre, not only are the children back at school, but Mr Nyathi is able to get the anti-retroviral drugs that he needs to stay healthy. He also says that the opportunity to work again as a volunteer has helped him to feel better about his family and personal situation.
Due to Mr Nyathi's diligence in his work at the library, both as librarian and homework supervisor, several children have become regular visitors and have vowed to improve their school work with his assistance.
The community is very proud of the library/resource centre and several have commented that once the children start to use the centre they are less likely to want to hang around in the streets and get into trouble.
"Indawo iyakhuthaza abantwana ukuthi bathande isikolo..." said Mrs Mathetshane, grandmother to some of the children who are also part of the programme: "The library encourages children to love education..."