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An Update from Mark and Laura Albertyn – 1st Term 2021

Please find below the latest Makomborero news from the 1st term of 2021.

Much to be grateful for as we start 2021

Wow! Makomborero Zimbabwe has entered its second decade and we have extended a warm welcome to 27 new students (10 Lower Sixth internals, 16 Lower Sixth externals). For the first time ever, we were able to welcome into the Resource Centre one external student who was already in Upper Sixth (thanks to a very kind sponsor). We have taken on our highest number of students to date as we continue to bridge the gap in access to education for many, many students, even if in this small way.

We have also welcomed two 2020 gap year students, Milton and Yeukai, as our first ever Makomborero Zimbabwe interns. They are a natural addition to the staff compliment and we often wonder how we ever got by without them. Our resource centre is now at full capacity and has a buzzing atmosphere that all students seem to enjoy. The year 2021 started under Covid-19 restrictions. There was much uncertainty surrounding how the school calendar would be structured and this was not the easiest start to the year for our students. It brought much worry and meant that some external students had no access to studying materials. Communication with our students proved key in those times, students were in much need of both encouragement and practical solutions and the Makomborero team did their best to meet both. Our external students began their lessons in March after the Covid19 restrictions had been relaxed. We are proud of how they are adapting to new protocols and juggled lesson times as Heads of schools and their staff make massive efforts to curb the spread of the virus.

Makomborero continues to support external students with data bundles and food packs. We are acutely aware that families are still facing poverty worsened by the ongoing pandemic and we know the negative impact this has on both the mental health of students and inevitably their education. On the 20th of March, we were able to hold a workshop for both internal and external students. It was a full day of fitting in training that would have otherwise been spread out during the course of the term. As much as it was an educational experience, it was also an opportunity for students to relax, catch up, laugh and eat together.

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External students were presented with backpacks, lunch boxes, water bottles, toiletries, stationery, hand sanitiser, masks, solar lamps and food packs. We had a generous donation of clothes on this occasion and these were distributed to both internals and externals. We won a grant that enabled us to purchase sustainable sanitary wear for 80 girls. We were pleased to have been able to distribute some of these on that day.

Our team is working on launching an online learning platform for our external students. It’s an amazing project that will be of huge benefit to the students once it is completed. We are hoping the project will be completed by the end of April and each external student will be issued with a tablet. Private schools opened in January online. We are incredibly grateful for the excellent education provided by our partner schools. For most of our Lower Sixth internals, online lessons were a completely new and daunting experience. We are proud of them for making the transition from their schools and the face to face learning they were so used to.

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Thank you to Makomborero staff who made sure that the six students who required glasses were able to get them and to SpecSavers who were able to test the students at discounted fees. Some students’ eye sight was so bad that they had been having to hold books to their faces or sit at the very front of the class just to see. It was humbling to see their first reactions to the world in their new glasses.

We would also like to say a huge thank you to students at our partner schools for how welcoming they have been to our Makomborero students. One of our internal students, Melisah, said she felt that her classmates had been waiting eagerly to meet her! Thanks to kind donors, all internal students were also presented with backpacks, hand sanitiser, masks, toiletries, lunch boxes and water bottles. Both internal and external students have beaten the odds this first term and all students have worked very hard. We are proud of all of them!

Examination Results

A huge congratulations to our 2020 leavers for the incredible A-Level results and to our current A-Level students for their equally amazing AS results. We are excited to announce that our 9 A-Level Cambridge students’ results were as follows: 26A*, 3A and 2B. Our 9 AS-Level Cambridge students’ results were as follows: 27A, 5B, 1C. (I know we are beginning to sound like a broken record but, there are no A* at AS-Level.) Well done everyone!!

We were thrilled that, compared to many parts of the world, our students were able to actually sit and write their examinations and be properly assessed. We would like to give heartfelt thanks to teachers and staff at our partner schools. Such incredible results are out of reach without their hard work. We value greatly their partnership with us and their dedication to our students and their education. The delay to the start of the first term has also meant delays in marking and releasing Zimsec results. It meant a longer than usual wait for our external student. We look forward to getting these results.

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University Life

Our local university students are waiting eagerly to begin lectures. There has been a more than 100% increase in fees for most programmes. We are extremely grateful to a local company that paid all our university fees as well as stipends for our 25 students. Lots of incredible graduations were celebrated during last year’s tough Covid times and we are so proud of our students. We are grateful to have been able to keep in touch with our university students who are outside of Zimbabwe. More than ever, they have needed the support system that is their family, friends and each other as most have not been able to travel at all in the last year. In the last few months, past Makomborero Zimbabwe students have strived to make better connections with an exciting Alumni programme and they are giving back to current Makomborero Zimbabwe students through a newly formed mentorship programme. It has been a joy to watch the creativity and hard work that past students are putting into these programmes.

Other projects

The Mobile Science Lab has recently re-launched. As always, it is a great benefit to students from schools where equipment for practical science lessons is scarce. To satisfy all Covid-19 protocols, the number of students per session has been halved. As much as we would like to impact more students with the excellent practical lessons on offer at the Science Lab, we have accepted that for now, this is not a possibility and are grateful for the few that will get this amazing experience.

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Plans are underway to begin the Ndeipi training sessions (our small business training). The attendees are often guardians/parents of students and this helps them to feel part of the Makomborero family too.

We were excited to begin Girl Mentorship sessions after a year of not being able to meet. Sessions started in April. Mentor training was done via audio clips. Our amazing mentors could not wait to get started and have done so with much enthusiasm. It’s shaping up to be a great year for Girl Mentorship programme. As we only had a few meetings with the 2020 mentees, we presented each of them with a food pack (beans, rice, soya chunks, porridge, pasta, sweets and biscuits) at the beginning of the year. They were pleasantly surprised and appreciated the goodies.

Our University of Zimbabwe residence in Harare is still an ongoing project but we have made some fantastic progress. Walls are painted, solar panels installed, beds and study tables made and the gazebo is up and ready. We are hoping to have the first residents in the house this August. Our staff have finally moved in to their new office! They are loving the space and putting their mark on the new space.

A final sign off

Despite all that is going on or not going on, we have tried to keep things at Makomborero Zimbabwe as normal as possible. The Albertyns have continued to go to the boarding house to share meals and spend time with students. Life Skills sessions continue to be a much looked forward to part of the week by the internal students. We appreciate that we can use Life Skills to discuss topics that help us raise well-rounded young men and women. Some of our sessions have had to occur via Zoom and have been just as effective and a bit of a welcome change. Training of Girl child mentors and interns has happened successfully via audio recordings.

As you can probably tell, this first term had the potential to be extremely hard but thanks to your ongoing support, we have managed to have lots of highs and we have continued to stand as a family and champion the education of young people despite all that is going on around us. We are extremely grateful to our sponsors. We are privileged to start our journey into this new decade with you!

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