LESEDI SCHOOL & CLINIC
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe >
In 2022 on a trip to Hwange National Park, I happened to visit this school with a colleague, who had heard about what was going on at Lesedi. He had arranged to meet Benson Siyawareva, a legendary safari guide from Zimbabwe, and co-founder of Lesedi School. He was there on a Sunday, with his sleaves rolled up and in work mode.
He showed us around the school and described how it all began; from literally a tiny tin roof structure as a play school, to what it is now - a thriving hub of education and well-being - all in just eight years. I was blown away by what he, and Fiona [read more below] have achieved - all with private funding.
What motivated me to support them in this initiative, is how humble and passionate Benson is, and how much of his personal time and money he has applied to this project - and continues to do so. I think everyone knows how critical education is to society and ultimately to conservation, especially in a key area like this.
Please read more below - and if you are visiting Victoria Falls we can arrange a visit to the school.
With your support, our $1000.00 contribution will be used for the running and development of the school.
The Ntabayengwe community, and other neighbouring communities, are located in scattered homesteads just 20 minutes drive from Victoria Falls. Despite being relatively close to town, the daily existence could be from another world. Most families survive by cattle raising and subsistence farming on the infertile Kalahari Sand soils. Human-wildlife conflict is rife as the area is adjacent to the Zambezi National Park and Jafuta Forest, so cattle are often taken by lions.
The people in this area are often poorly educated with low aspiration levels and limited role models. Prior to Lesedi, the nearest local school was many kilometres away. Children were often absent or dropped out of school altogether. Many parents, unable to pay school fees, preferred their children to remain at home to help with household chores. Alcohol dependence was an issue, with some households engaged in the illegal moonshine business. Many families are dealing with ill health, including HIV and AIDS.
The cycle of poverty in these communities has persisted for generations and there was little hope for improvement without outside intervention.
In 2013, Benson Siyawareva, became involved with the local community and realized that many children were not attending school. Along with his business partner, Fiona Thompson, Benson began working with the community on an ambitious plan to build a primary school in the local area, aiming to break the cycle of poverty through the power of education.
The project started with construction of a simple structure to offer classes to pre-school children, with the initial intake of kids, in their “pioneer” students, enrolling in 2014.
Thanks to the generous support by various donors, development has continued year on year and Lesedi Primary School now offers a full infant and junior education. Infant education consists of four years of schooling from Early Childhood Development (ECD) A to Grade 2. Junior education comprises five years from Grade 3 to Grade 7.
Over 290 children are now enrolled at Lesedi, with our child sponsorship program providing for the education and welfare of most of their learners.
Soon after starting this project, it became apparent that healthcare was also a huge issue for the communities in this area. With the nearest clinic many kilometres from Lesedi, medical treatment was not an option for many families. The vast majority of the Lesedi pupils had never seen a doctor, despite some having serious medical conditions.
Thanks to the incredible generosity of various supporters, they were able to build Lesedi Clinic in 2019. The clinic includes male and female wards, maternity/delivery rooms, pharmacy and consultation rooms. We also built an expectant mothers' cottage, providing accommodation for women during the final stages of pregnancy and ensuring they give birth at the clinic rather than in their rural homes. Lesedi Clinic is now also a vaccination centre for the local communities.