30 October 2015
|Saint Michael’s Secondary School, a welcoming beacon of light at Tongogara Refugee Camp, the first set of buildings one sees as you arrive at the camp. (Gushwell F. Brooks/Jesuit Refugee Service)|
|All the refugee children who had to attend secondary school would have to walk for many kilometers to attend school in the nearby communities and this led to a lot of dropouts.|
Tongogara, 29 October 2015 - Situated on the outskirts of the refugee camp, Saint Michael’s Secondary School is a welcoming beacon of light at Tongogara Refugee Camp, the first set of buildings one sees as you arrive at the camp. With 473 Students enrolled at the school, Saint Michael’s offers schooling from form 1-4 for all refugee children as well as Zimbabwean Students from the surrounding community.
When the camp initially opened, there was no secondary school, only a primary school that was built by UNHCR in conjunction with the Zimbabwean government. All the refugee children who had to attend secondary school would have to walk for many kilometers to attend school in the nearby communities and this led to a lot of dropouts. The refugee community then approached the Catholic Church for help in the construction of a secondary school. The first classroom block and toilets were then put up by IMBISA, a Catholic Organisation which is under the Catholic Bishops of Southern Africa.
With the increase in numbers of refugees in the camp, there was need to put up another block, and Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) was on the scene to help with this. The second block at the secondary school was put up in October 2007 and was put to use at the commencement of the school year in 2008. Wild animals then became a menace at the school, and there was need to fence it off which was done by JRS in 2012. Because the number of refugees continued to grow in the camp, as well as in the school, there was need to put up more toilets at the school, and this was again done by JRS in 2013.
Because there are no trees at the school for outside learning like in the primary school, there continued to be children that were turned away from secondary school because of the limited capacity and the waiting list of prospective Students continued to grow. One funder, Misean Cara, came to the rescue and funded the construction of a 3rd block which has a library, a science laboratory, 3 classrooms and a teacher’s office. Construction was completed in September 2015, with solar installation, computers for the library as well as science lab equipment.
Thanks to Miseann Cara, the school can now enroll up to 600 Students, though the waiting list is growing rapidly (the figure stood at 63 as at end of September 2015). Our mission as JRS is to build more classrooms, with the aim to turn the school into an A Level school by 2017.
Saint Michael’s Secondary School, under the current leadership of its Principal, Mr. Ziracha, has achieved great accolades academically, in sport and cultural extracurricular activities. JRS, the organisations and the people that saw to the establishment and perpetual development of St Michael’s Secondary School prove that being a refugee should not rob you of a quality education. Education is the path to prosperity, even within the context of a refugee camp, education equips people – refugee or asylum seeker – to positively contribute to their communities. Also, many displaced people would happily return to their countries once peace and stability returns. Schools like Saint Michael’s in Tongogara ensure that refugees and asylum seekers are an asset to any community they might find themselves part of. Through education JRS is able to give people the most significant durable solution of all.
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