A Northern Ireland couple has opened a school in Zimbabwe after being touched by the plight of pupils there who received no schooling during the long lockdown.
Pauline and Paul McCullough, who lived in Zimbabwe for ten years, had hoped to help educate 100 children through their friends there.
However, they were overwhelmed last year when 23 000 children from Zimbabwe and South Africa signed up for their Maths, English and Life skills worksheets in just a fortnight. Pauline told the Chronicle.co.uk:
We had sourced workbooks and Paul set up a website that could deliver daily worksheets to children.
We hadn’t intended to start a school in Zimbabwe, but that is what we have ended up with.
The children arrive early, eager to learn and be a part of something. We have three small wooden huts, a large concrete sheltered area and the promise of land to start building.
Our intention had been to start slowly. A few children in each grade, guided through the daily lessons by a facilitator.
But we had grossly underestimated the number of children not in school who were so desperate to learn.
In February we registered 20 children with the Zimbabwe Ministry of Education and started a small school.
The mum-of-two recalled that they visited the school in May and noticed that another 30 children were arriving in the afternoon, hoping to have a small, short lesson in reading, writing and maths. She said they also enrolled them adding:
Another child arrived the next day, got down onto his knees and begged us to let him attend. How could we say no? We now had 51. This pattern repeated until we had 55 and had to draw a line. We simply could not manage any more.
She said the main challenge was that the older children are struggling to read and write.
She added that S & T Moore in Coleraine, Northern Ireland, “kindly donated some uniforms so we now have children in Zimbabwe wearing uniforms made locally.”
They are planning to visit again later in the year to take out some teaching resources and reading books.