Page 9, 18th September 1964

18th September 1964
Page 9
Page 9, 18th September 1964 — The backyard schools of Rhodesia

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The backyard schools of Rhodesia

By Elizabeth Matheson HERE has been a marked improvement in While this expansion has been taking place there has not been an equivalent improvement in secondary school facilities. This has resulted in a bottleneck in the school programme as a whole. Attention was focused on this problem in 1962. when there were demonstrations among, the large numbers of children who had finished primary school and were unable to find places in secondary schools.

The Government could do little to alleviate the situation, owing to the shortage of funds, buildings and teaching staff. It was then that community schools came into being.

Voluntary helpers

Residents of Highfields Township, in Salisbury, with the assistance of a number of voluntary helpers, and financial aid from various benevolent organisations, formed the Highfields Community School. This school has unfortunately been affected recently by political conflicts between the two main African political patties.

In Harare, the other large African township in Salisbury, Fr. E. W. Rogers, S.J., had been appointed by the Jesuit superior to investigate social problems and work out a plan of action. He arrived amid the upheavals caused by the school situation, and set about establishing St. Peter's Community Secondary School.

St. Peter's has been one of the few schools in the area not affected by political unrest and boycotts, which have recently disrupted the running of most Government schools in Rhodesia.

There remains a small percentage of young children not attending primary school. Many of them live in remote rural areas or are the children of domestic servants who live on the properties of their employers in the pen-urban white suburbs, The Land Apportionment Act in Rhodesia does not allow for the building of schools for Africans in European residential areas, and no land is set aside for this purpose.

Parents of these children most either send them to stay with relatives who live near schools, or to boarding schools. But as boarding school fees are high for a domestic servant earning from 15 to 110 a month, plus keep, they often remain uneducated.

The concern of employers for the plight of their servants' children has led to the establishment of another type of community school. Southern Rhodesia's "backyard schools". People with large properties have allowed makeshift schools to be built on their premises, or have made outbuildings available.

They rely on fees and donations for teachers' salaries and other running costs, as well as any other help that may be offered by wellwishers. This may consist of voluntary teaching by housewives in the area.

No assistance

The Church has taken an interest in the running of some of these "backyard schools". In the Salisbury suburb of Borrowdale, the Redemptorist Fathers have made themselves responsible for the running of two which have some 230 pupils between them.

Most of the children film part of the African Catholic congregation, and half an hour a day is devoted to religious instruction. Many European members of the congregation have given stationary, furniture and other equipment.

The community schools in the urban areas are registered with 'the Government. Education Department, and In some cases receive grants. But the "backyard schools" exist without recognition or assistance from the Government, being in areas not zoned for African schools.

While they can only take only a fraction of the children in need of education in the pen-urban areas, they arc doing an excellent job as a stop-gap measure until a definite policy is formulated.

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