Murewa Day Care Center
In November 2012, 60 beaming little faces walked across the stage of the Howard Memorial Church in the village of Murewa, Zimbabwe, to receive their well-deserved graduation certificates and United Methodist Women pins donated by United Methodist Women staff Marva Usher Kerr. Dressed in smart black graduation gowns and matching caps, the children were not the only ones with grins on their faces. In the crowd, their proud parents, teachers and guests cheered them on.
Indeed, this was a day to be celebrated. It was the 16th graduation of the Murewa Day Care Center- a day that was probably not foreseen when:
- In 1909, mission staff decided to create a small play room for their children in the church at which they worked, which turned into a one-classroom day care serving employees and families in Murewa.
- In 1997, Ms. Andris Salter, assistant general secretary of United Methodist Women, visited the day care to find 50 children crammed in the only classroom.
Since then, United Methodist Women has provided funds to help build three classrooms, to assist teachers with upgrading their skills, and to ensure that the day care center is up to date with books, furniture and needed equipment.
The story of Murewa Day Care exemplifies commitment between local partners and United Methodist Women worldwide:
- Dedicated teachers and staff who show up every school term, using their strength and talents to multiply UMW mission giving.
- Two cooks who work under an open shed through heavy rains and winter- to provide lunch for the children.
- Collaboration between United Methodist Women in Zimbabwe and South Carolina- providing yarn and knitting clothes to help keep the children warm in the winter.
However, the school still needs our support. The school has one toilet facility for the 87 enrolled children, with separate toilets for boys and girls, which remains incomplete due to lack of funds. The school needs more toilets and sinks for washing hands. The school also lacks a proper kitchen, causing challenges for food preparation during the heavy rains under the open space. The school also enrolls children from rural areas, where many parents face challenges in paying school fees and do not have warm clothes to give to their children to wear to school in the winter. Provision of warm clothes could help these pupils. United Methodist Women in Zimbabwe are currently knitting hats and boots to sell to support the school.
Murewa Day Care is located at the Murewa Mission Center. It caters to pre-school children age four to six. Its main goal is to equip children with the psycho-social and motor skills necessary for success in formal education. The day care enrolls 87 children. The children attend Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. till 3 p.m., where their daily time table includes music, coloring, breakfast, lunch, mid-day rest, games, afternoon snack and outdoor and indoor play. The center currently has four teachers trained in early- childhood education, all of whom are provided a salary by the government. The district has awarded the center with Best ECD Athletics Center (2009), Best Early Childhood Development (ECD) Infrastructure (2009-2011) and Second Best ECD Infrastructure (2012) honors.
Until 2000, Zimbabwe was known as the "bread basket of Africa," exporting maize, tobacco and wheat to the continent and beyond. From 1998 to 2008, the country suffered a severe economic crisis resulting in about 80 percent national poverty, more than 90 percent unemployment and official inflation above 200,000,000 percent. The inflation was so high that in 2008, a loaf of bread cost as much as 1.6 trillion Zimbabwe dollars. This economic crisis partly stemmed from the country's colonial history, during which the British dispossessed blacks of land through force and colonial legislation in favor of minority white farmers. As of 1999, white farmers in Zimbabwe owned about 70 percent of the country's arable land despite making up less than one percent of the country's population.
In 2000, the country's president, Robert Mugabe, attempted to correct this historical imbalance with a controversial "fast- track land-redistribution program" through which about 4,000 white farmers were forced to leave and the land was allocated to about 140,000 poor black families. Although the majority of the land went to the poor, it is widely believed that the most fertile lands were reserved for Mugabe's relatives and allies. Although there was a real need for correction of historical imbalances, Mugabe's program employed violence and intimidation and resulted in massive human rights violations.
Most of those who obtained land through this program did not have the resources to cultivate it and received no governmental aid, which resulted in a 70 percent drop in food production and consequent national hunger crisis.
Around this time, teachers at the day care inspected children's lunch boxes and found that some did not bring nutritious food; the only decent balanced meal many ate was at the center. So funds from UMW were used to purchase food for the children. The center also experienced an influx of children from other day cares closed due to the crisis. Again, funds from UMW helped the center to welcome more children.
Since then, the country's economy has stabilized, although international sources estimate that unemployment remains around 90 percent. In 2012, the government of Zimbabwe released statistics that the country's unemployment had declined to 10.7 percent, although this figure is disputed by both national and international sources.
Despite the difficult economic conditions, the center has continued to grow. It is considered to be a model center. Several parents have praised its high standard of instruction and have reported that their children were accepted into Murewa Primary School.
Overall, through United Methodist Women mission giving, the center built three classrooms and separate toilets for boys and girls and bought mattresses, curtains, a water tank and regular lunch for the children. Enrollment has also increased to accommodate more needy families.
The center and its children, parents and the community are deeply grateful to United Methodist Women for helping them to withstand the throes of an economic crisis and for helping young generations of Zimbabweans to succeed for 16 years.