Saturday, December 04, 2004

Cathy's letter from Zimbabwe

Dear Family and Friends,
This week our schools limped to the last day and shuddered to a stop at
the end of what has been an impossibly difficult school year. It was my
son's last day at junior school and I sat with other parents at the final
assembly. Since nursery school I have never missed a gala, sports day,
play or concert and I knew that Richard's last day at junior school was
going to be emotional. It was also prize giving day and one by one
children came up grade by grade to receive awards for their excellence.
There were the usual English, Maths and Arts prizes but also awards for
achievement, consistent effort and Christian conduct.

As each child came up there were the usual claps, cheers and ululation's
from parents bursting with pride and I found tears in my eyes on more than
one occasion. I clapped and cried for myself as a parent, ex farmer and
outspoken writer. I was not actually sure how I had survived these 57
months of turmoil, fear and penury and made it to this day. I clapped and
cried for Richard who had changed schools, worked through learning
problems, lived through horrors on an invaded farm and fought his fears
and nightmares. I was not sure how Richard had made it to this day either
or how either of us would cope with the phenomenal changes which lie
ahead. I clapped and cried for the school too and moreso after listening
to the annual reports by the Headmistress and the Chairman of the Board of
Governors. Even though I had been in and out of the school all year and
had attended almost all of the meetings, listening to the litany of
horrors in one speech really bought home to me what an enormous
achievement it was that this little school had managed to stay open at
all. The year had begun with inflation of over 600% and yet the
government had pegged the school fees at a rate which did not take
economics into consideration. In May, first the headmistress and then the
Chairman of the Board had been detained in police cells. The Police closed
the school down and patrolled the premises preventing our children and
their teachers from entering.

As the year went on, the finances of the school became more and more
precarious. All parents had agreed to make donations to the school to keep
the standards up, but when it came to it, many did not do so. The feelings
at parents meetings got tenser and angrier as those parents who had made
large donations to the school knew that their money was supporting the
children of other parents who had promised to, but who had paid nothing
extra. Three weeks before the end of the term and in the heat of mid
summer, the school was forced to close the swimming pool down as they
could no longer afford to keep it operating. And now, on prize giving day,
not a single child actually received a prize because the school simply
could not afford to buy the usual book prizes. The children got
certificates and applause, huge applause, from parents and teachers who
knew what an achievement it was and what sacrifices had been made again
and again for and by the school to get to this day.

As I sit here on Saturday morning writing about our little prize-less
prize giving day at a small Marondera school, I found myself drawn to
switch on local TV just for a minute. There is live coverage of the Zanu
PF annual congress and its 9000 delegates in Harare. The speakers seem to
be falling over each other to pour praise on the party and its leaders.
They are no doubt as shocked as we are at the events of the last week
which saw seven top Zanu PF officials being suspended from the party for
daring to differ in the choice of vice presidency. Heads have rolled, more
will undoubtedly follow and no doubt there will be no prizes at that
ceremony either. Until next week, love cathy Copyright cathy
buckle 4th December 2004. http://africantears.netfirms.com
My books on the Zimbabwean crisis, "African Tears" and "Beyond Tears" are
available outside Africa from: orders@africabookcentre.com ;
www.africabookcentre.com ; www.amazon.co.uk ; in Australia and New Zealand:
johnmreed@johnreedbooks.com.au ; Africa: www.kalahari.net
www.exclusivebooks.com




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