Over a recent weekend, 190 students from 90 Zimbabwean schools came for the first round of testing for the 2021 Makomborero scholarships. 65 of these students came from outside of Harare and Chitungwiza, and Makomborero had to accommodate 15 of them.
However, due to Covid-19 regulations, this was quite a challenge in itself. Due to the current banking restrictions that limit mobile transactions to $5000zwl (50usd) per day, it was incredibly hard getting the money to cover transport costs to all these students. We needed to distribute $60,000zwl to the attendees. By hook and by crook, we managed to borrow various mobile banking platforms and distribute the money over a couple of days. There is still no cash available in large enough amounts, with our weekly withdrawal limit is set at $1000zwl per week.
Accommodating the out-of-town students also took quite some planning. We were able to organise temporary accommodation at our UZ (University of Zimbabwe) boarding house (which is still a work in progress) and we were able to borrow bedding and mattresses for the students. Terrence and Noel, 2 Makomborero Alumni, also stayed at the house to look after them. Feeding these guests was also quite a challenge! However, in the true Zimbabwean tradition of making a plan, we were able to take advantage of the fact that currently many UZ students run roadside cafes as a way of paying their university fees and we were able to secure 15 meals of stew and sadza (the maize meal staple) for $1zwl a plate.
All the visiting students were so determined to make the most of the opportunity and here is an example of this:
The bus a female student boarded from Masvingo broke down on the way to Harare and the testing weekend. The passengers were stuck on the side of the road throughout the night and day. Unfortunately the driver would not refund the passengers their money to allow them to catch another bus. However, the girl was determined to come for the testing so she managed to find a relative who could pick her up when she got to Harare. We were able to send her a new bus fare and this student made it in time!
The first round of testing encompasses tests that take into account an individual’s raw ability. This is particularly important this year, as most of these students have missed 9 months of schooling over the year. They all embark on their GCSE equivalent exams over Christmas and into the New Year, with huge delays caused by Covid-19.
To add a lighter side to the weekend, we also organised art therapy sessions, with some lovely creations resulting.
We are in awe of the hard work of the Makomborero team in Harare, who, together with a team of Makomborero Alumni students and with a team of volunteers, made this daunting weekend possible, driving the students, cooking, organising, marking and cleaning and much, much more.
Thank you all for your commitment and we await the next stage of testing when the final dozens of students are assessed on a more individual basis.
We wish them all the best of luck!
After the weekend, we were really pleased to get feedback from the participants and here are just a couple of the messages:
“How are you, Sir or Madam? l just wanted to thank you for the first round of tests l was selected to attend, thank you very much. l learnt a lot there, that l can become someone in life. Especially that time you played the song “Awakening”, my soul was lifted. Thank you for changing my life for the better. Continue to do God’s work like what you are doing. Thank you again.”
“Thank you for giving me a chance of being the one of the people who were selected on the first round. Even l did not manage to go to the other round, l learnt a lot about life that day. Thank you so much.”