For most pupils and teachers at Holy Ghost College, 18 October will remain in their memories for some time.
Situated 390 kilometres East of Harare, in the rural areas of Marange district, an area that has come to be more commonly known for its diamonds, the school was a buzz of activity as students prepared to hear more about the United Nations.
The event was an educational awareness on the UN, being held as one of the commemorative activities for United Nations Day 2013 in Zimbabwe.
When the Information Officer from UNIC Harare, Tafadzwa Mwale arrived at the school, it was just 10am, but the area was blistering hot. Teachers and students were milling around, waiting expectantly for the arrival of the guests from Harare.
With the completion of a few introductory formalities, Mr Kasirori, a senior teacher at the school led UNIC and its counterpart for this event, World Food Programme’s Edmore Makumbe to the hall in which the awareness was to be held.
To open the discussion, Tafadzwa Mwale asked the group of approximately 250 pupils what United Nations was in the local Shona language. According to Mr Kasirori, three other schools were also represented at this event. They were Marange High School, Nharira High School and Chikwariro High School.
After a few moments of thinking, hands began to go up and the pupils coined the translation as ‘Mubatanidzwa we Nyika Dzepasi Rose’. For this correct answer, the pupil got a prize of a UN publication. Tafadzwa Mwale then went on to elaborate on the meaning.
This interactive teaching experience continued throughout, as pupils were taken through a short history of the UN, how the UN works, and finally on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and what the UN in Zimbabwe is doing to meet the MDG targets.
For example, around MDG 2 “Achieve Universal Primary Education”, the UN in Zimbabwe supported the Government to develop an action plan to raise school completion rates to 100% so that Zimbabwe will be able to achieve this goal. Furthermore, the pupils learnt that 395,000 children were supported to resume their education and 13,000 schoolchildren were assisted to have access to safe water. The UN also supported the buying and distribution of text books to 2.5 million pupils in primary and secondary school.
Around MDG 3 – “Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women”, the UN in Zimbabwe supported the Government to include a special measure in the New Constitution to increase the participation of women in decision-making. As a result, the representation of Women in Parliament has increased from 24% in 2012 to 30% in 2013. The UN in Zimbabwe is also supporting programmes that empower women through economic opportunities for example through the provision of loans.
On MDG 5, “Improving Maternal Mortality”, the UN through working with Young People’s Network, has been raising awareness on preventing teenage pregnancy. The UN through UNFPA, UNICEF and WHO has been providing support through the establishment of maternity waiting homes for expecting mothers in rural areas, abolishing user fees for expecting mothers to access free health services.
The UN has dedicated UN Day in Zimbabwe this year to focus on the issue of “Safer Environment for Motherhood in Zimbabwe” as part of efforts to address the high maternal mortality rate which stands at 960 deaths per 100 000 live births, almost double the average in other African countries.
The educational awareness concluded with a question and answer session. Pupils wanted to know some of the challenges facing the UN as an international body whilst others also wanted to know what the UN is doing to assist with issues of teen pregnancies.
In turn, the, students had a wealth of knowledge: They knew who the current Secretary-General is and his country of origin, they were able to cite some of the MDGs and they were able to name some of the countries in which Zimbabwe has contributed peacekeeping forces.
At the end of the day, the pupils said they had learnt a lot about the UN. In his Vote of Thanks, a form 2 pupil said “We now know more about the UN, more than what we knew before and we really appreciate it.”
For the UNIC team, the challenge confronting them as they drove away was not only the sweltering heat, estimated to be reaching 34 degrees that day, but also how to get more information on the UN to more rural areas in Zimbabwe.