Robin Muchetu, Senior reporter
A ROMAN Catholic Priest of the Archdiocese of Bulawayo is spearheading the construction of a school in Matobo district, as a means to safeguard female students who are at risk of being abused as they walk 22km to the nearest school.
The priest, Father Innocent Ndlovu, said the school project which is located in Mpamadzi in Matobo, Matabeleland South province should to be treated as an urgent one as the girl child is vulnerable in this area.
“Secondary school learners in Mpamadzi Village walk long distances to get to the nearest school which is 15km away from the village if they use a bush cut but if they use the main road it is 22km. The situation is deplorable as the learners leave their homes as early as 4am when it is still dark and come back home around 7pm when it is dark again,” he said.
Fr Ndlovu said the most affected students are girls who he said were at risk of being attacked and sexually abused.
He also said there were a lot of pressures that come with teenage years and the frequent movement at night could spell doom for young female learners.
“We now have school drop-outs being very common in this area because of this. There is also an increase in heinous crimes committed by young local people and it is a cause for concern. People are being killed here in the bushes and we feel our girls need to be protected from sexual predators if they continue to learn very far from home and to walk the long distances alone,” he said.
In response to the challenges that the community of Mpamadzi is facing, Fr Ndlovu said they have secured a 24-hectare piece of land from Matobo Rural District Council to build a secondary school.
Fr Ndlovu said villagers have already started moulding bricks for the school and are seeking funds to start the construction.
They have also cleared the land.
“We are seeking funds to get the construction going and we are calling upon well wishers to assist as we build block by block. I have consulted with Zinwa who said water can be pumped from Simukwe River to the school site. I have also been in talks with the Rural Electrification Agency to electrify one primary school nearest to us and then we can connect electricity from there,” he said.
Member of Parliament for Matobo South Hon Mahalima Ncube has also facilitated the drilling of a borehole at the school site.
Fr Ndlovu said the school will be named St Maria Secondary School. He also said the primary school in the same area was built by Roman Catholic Missionaries in 1932 and was named Mpamadzi St Maria Primary School in recognition of traditional leadership of Mpamadzi Makawule.