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» » Bikita Minerals’ school feeding scheme bears fruit

Bikita Minerals mine manager; David Mwanza

Itai Muzondo

10 Feb 2017 - BIKITA
– In the early 1990s, government provided food for primary school pupils under the Home Grown School Feeding Program (HGSFP), an initiative which credited for boosting attendance and saving children from ailments that are related to poor nutrition especially in rural areas.
The programme disappeared as the economy of the country took a knock put with persistent droughts the problems caused by poor nutrition on young children became more glaring and the government re-introduced the programme some few years ago.
In 2016, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education; Dr Sylvia Utete - Masango hailed Gutu communities for supporting the initiative and urged others to do the same, highlighting the government's wish to expand the programme
Further afield in Bikita district, Bikita Minerals has for long been making its own enormous contributions to support the supplementary feeding to many schools in solidarity with the government initiative.
The mining company is providing traditional mahewu energy drink to schools and has been doing that since 2015.
Schools that have been benefiting from the mine's helping hand include Domboshava Primary School, Mandindi Primary School, Beardmore Primary School, Bikita Minerals Primary School and Rusununguko Primary School. Marundu Primary School in Gutu also added to the list of beneficiaries this year.
School representatives who spoke to TellZim News praised the company for its commitment to the welfare of surrounding communities.
Domboshava Primary, people said, had witnessed great improvement in learning standards due to the support extended to it by the mining company.
School head, Douglas Dzore said the school had recorded leaps in its pass rate ever since they started to receive support in 2015.
"In 2014, we attained a 25.1 percent pass rate which was way below average but we jumped to 64.86 percent in 2015 after Bikita Minerals came on board. We then recorded a 57.14 percent pass rate 2016," said Dzore.
Senior teacher at the school, Silas Chamunorwa said the school had become more respectable than before owing to the support from the mining company.
 "This school was established in 1914 but very few, if any, have given it the kind of support as has been given to it by Bikita Minerals. Standards have improved here and the children are in a better standing than they would otherwise have been. 
"I grew up in this area and Domboshava was one of the most looked-down-upon schools because its buildings were very old. It is all different now and things are shaping up, thanks to the support of Bikita Minerals," said Chamunorwa.
Rusununguko Primary School, which is still working to improve its pass rate, has also registered changes in school attendance and performance by pupils as a result of the feeding scheme.
Statistics show that the average weight by age of children at the school has also risen.
"The weight of children in our ECD classes used to average 13 kg but after receiving extra aid from the mine to give our pupils mahewu, we are seeing an average weight of 18 kg for the same class," read part of the documents.
Bikita Minerals Primary School headmaster; Lovemore Zifunzi told TellZim News that attendance had greatly improved as a result of the initiative.
"As you know government re-introduced the HGSFP but the initiative needs support. Bikita Minerals has proved to be a benevolent caregiver by donating the 'mahewu' traditional brew. Right now attendance per day is has risen to 100 percent," Zifunzi said.
The school head also revealed that the mine was helping in many other projects meant to improve leaning conditions.
TellZim News managed to contact Bikita Minerals mine manager; David Mwanza who said the company acknowledges the salient relationship between nutrition and intellectual development.
"Most rural homesteads do not have enough food due to droughts and other social factors. We realised that school children can be motivated to concentrate and to like their school work if they are well-fed thus our decision to complement the government's feeding programme.
"We also wish to support those who perform well in their studies so that we employ them at the mine. All being said, we take pride in giving back to the community we operate in," Mwanza said.
Masvingo Provincial Education Director (PED); Zedias Chitiga praised Bikita Minerals for demonstrating a strong commitment to Bikita communities.
"Can anyone work on an empty stomach and produce results? Such initiatives are very helpful. You would see that at their level, primary school pupils do much of the playing and learning so feeding them gives them enough energy for all that.
"What the mining company is doing is welcome to us as the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education. The Ministry also has a saying that goes, 'Healthy mind on a healthy body' and obviously, a healthy body only comes by eating well," Chitiga, education

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