Swift Current man passionate about helping support children’s education in Zimbabwe
A former teacher from Zimbabwe who now calls Swift Current home is still passionate about helping children in his birthplace to have a better future through education.
Collin Nyabadza is currently raising funds to ship classroom furniture from the former St. Joseph and St. Patrick schools to rural schools in Zimbabwe.
These two schools in Swift Current were closed as a result of the opening of the new All Saints Catholic School in the city. Nyabadza, who is the founder and executive director of the Collin Nyabadza Children’s Voice Charitable Trust, approached the Holy Trinity Catholic School Division about the furniture.
“It pains me if I don’t take that furniture,” he said. “It will end up in a landfill and then it will really pain me considering the fact that there are children who just go to an empty classroom and then they would just sit on dirty floors when there’s abundant furniture here.”
The Catholic School Division agreed to donate the furniture, but now he must raise funds to ship the desks and chairs to southern Africa. He has estimated the shipping cost at between $7,000 and $8,000. He will also be shipping used soccer equipment, which he has already collected, with the furniture in the container.
“So at the end of the day it will be a really big investment,” he said.
The furniture from St. Joseph School will be sufficient for 100 children and the furniture from St. Patrick School will provide desks and chairs to another 200 children.
“So basically we would be able to supply one or two full schools,” he said.
His passion to support students to receive an education began shortly after he started his teaching career at the Tjewondo Primary School in January 1993. It is located in the Matobo district in the province of Matabeleland South.
“It’s rural in the true sense where you don’t have facilities,” he said. “You don’t have things like electricity.”
The area is about 120 kilometres from the country’s second largest city, Bulawayo, where he grew up. …The school had 1,000 students and 26 teachers, …but inadequate facilities. There were only a few classrooms, little classroom furniture and not enough teacher cottages to provide housing to staff.
“That school was so poor that it was run down,” he said. “We didn’t have water. So teachers had to walk two to three kilometres and the same goes with the students to go and fetch water. In short, I can just say the conditions were pathetic.”
During the winter months, from May to July, the students crammed into the few classrooms, where grade groups gathered in different corners of the room. The poor conditions resulted in a high staff turnover, which made the learning environment even more challenging.
“So you can’t really have any effective learning taking place there,” he said. “One day, I just said …to myself ‘if all teachers come and go, who is …going to help these parents, who is going to help …the community to develop the facilities at this school? I made that decision to stay and I’m glad. That decision would always remain one of the …best decisions I have ever made in my career.”
He was able to secure scholarships from a local brewery company for two brilliant students in his Grade 7 class. One became an engineer and the other a teacher.
“I realized that these kids, once they’re given an opportunity, have what it takes to succeed,” he said. “That motivated me.”
He assisted 300 students to receive scholarships during nine years of teaching at this school, but he realized it was not enough to only provide them with an opportunity to study. They require the proper resources at school.
“If they don’t have the right resources, they cannot really be in a position to exploit their potential to the fullest,” he said. “So I started sourcing funds from the international community and other goodwill people around the world to buy things like school furniture, build classrooms, build teacher’s cottages, to drill boreholes and stuff like that.”
He came to Canada in April 2001, but continued with his work to support schools and students in rural areas of Zimbabwe.
“Even though I have left the country, because of the love and the bond I’ve developed with those children and with the community at large, I kept doing these projects,” he said.
In December 2012, he set up a registered charitable trust in Zimbabwe to reach out to more children …and schools in need. The main focus of the Collin Nyabadza Children’s Voice Charitable Trust is to provide educational facilities such as classrooms, school furniture, boreholes for water and even sanitary pads for girls.
“Most of the girls, because of poverty, use tree leaves for sanitary pads because they don’t have the money to buy those,” he said.
Nyabadza, who volunteers as a soccer coach with the Swift Current Soccer Association, has also collected sports equipment to donate to schools.
“Last year, they gave me hundreds of used soccer equipment which I took home to Zimbabwe,” he said. “We donated them to various schools that we work with and it was really touching to see some of the children and some of the parents shedding tears after having received that equipment.”
The motto of the trust is “No child shall be put down by poverty.” He believes every child matters and deserves an opportunity to receive an education.
“There are two ways to poverty — it can either break you or it can either make you,” he said.
“You can be forced because of poverty to work extra hard so that you can get out of poverty, but sometimes you can be overwhelmed to the point where you simply lose hope and you give up.”
The trust is active in five districts of Zimbabwe and volunteer trustees have practical experience of teaching in poor rural schools. Nyabadza’s views about the way the trust should operate have been influenced by the time he has lived in Canada.
“I must say I really admire the way Canadians perceive life,” he said. “I admire their concept of giving back to the society. … This is the concept I want to use to develop my organization. I want to use my organization as a vehicle to instill that concept of giving back to the community.”
For more information about the work of the trust or to donate towards the cost of shipping school furniture from Swift Current to Zimbabwe, phone Nyabadza at 306-774-4266 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Details about the activities of the trust are also available …on the following website: http://childrensvoice zimbabwe.org/.
FIND THE ARTICLE HERE Prairie Post