The Margaretha Hugo Schools and Workshops are soldiering on against immense adversity to continuously improve the conditions of people with disabilities and deliver some tangible results, TellZim News can report.
Popularly known as Copota, the school has made a success of many blind children who otherwise would probably have had no chance of attaining formal education.
The institution was registered as a school in 1927 by the then Dutch Reformed Church evangelists Rev Hugo and his wife Margaretha when the country was still known by its colonial name Southern Rhodesia.
Now controlled by the Reformed Church in Zimbabwe (RCZ), the institution hosts primary and secondary schools as well as workshops where some remarkable crafts and carpentry work is done.
“Our enrollment currently stands at 300 pupils; 160 of them in primary and 140 in secondary. At the moment, however, only 65 Grade 7 and Form 4 pupils preparing for their final exams are here while the rest are at home in keeping with the Covid-19 induced phased reopening of school,” said secondary school head Alfred Madamombe during a recent tour of the school organised by Hevoi FM.
He said he was pleased by the achievements that the institution continued to register in spite of the seemingly insurmountable challenges.
Copota also makes effort to give after-school assistance and support for children who demonstrate potential in business and agriculture.
“We strive to give post-school support and capacitation so that our pupils do not become desperate school leavers without any chance of success. In Mashava and Chivi, we have helped some of our former pupils with albinism to set-up tuckshops while others have been helped to set-up small drip irrigation facilities and they are all doing fairly well.
“The idea is to make sure that people with disabilities can have some dignity of being able to provide for themselves and others,” said primary school head Clever Madzokere.
During the early phases of the lockdown, he said, they drove far and wide delivering food parcels to some of their pupils in areas as far away as Chisumbanje and Kwekwe.
The institution also has a Braille workshop with such equipment as an imposer, Perkins printers and an out-of-service guillotine.
The workshop produces books and caters for other reading materials for pupils.
By transcribing large volumes of cited text into Braille, the workshop also handles the reading material requirements of the Reformed Church University (RCU), which is a sister institution, and other institutions offering special needs education.
Challenges include lack of funding which has resulted in some equipment including the guillotine breaking down without repair. In spite of that, there is an impressive improvisation which has seen optimum services being maintained using the same outdated equipment and methods.
“We have many challenges but we are grateful for what we have. The economic challenges in the country affect everybody but we are pleased that we are moving forward to do what we love to do; providing education to children with vision impairment,” said workshop manager Ernest Dube.
Dube, who himself got educated at Copota and began working in the workshop in 1980, said there was a limited supply of Braillon paper and the ordinary Braille writing paper, that are all imported mostly from Europe and Asia.
|The Helene Hugo Hall is named after Margaretha's daughter|