By CUTHBERT MASHOKO
Well-designed flower beds with immaculate flowers, neatly cut grass and shrubs is what catches the eye as one arrives at the main entrance gate of Rutenga Primary School. A view which can be mistaken to that of a five-star lodge. Yellow painted classroom blocks which resonate well with the maroon coated roof is a marvel to watch. In front of the classroom blocks is a State of the Art, blue roofed Administration block.
Rutenga Primary School is in Rutenga Growth Point and just 200m from the Masvingo – Beitbridge Highway. The towering administration block’s blue roof which can be seen from a distance has tempted many to get closer and have a view of the school. Rutenga Primary was established in 1983. Its first site was adjacent to the Rutenga Railway Station. The school was meant to cater for children of the employees of the National Railways of Zimbabwe. By then, Rutenga was surrounded by commercial farms and it was under the Beitbridge – Mwenezi District Council. With the expansion of Rutenga Business Centre the school relocated across the highway to the west. Vibrations caused by trains, and noisy hooting are some of the factors that influenced the relocation.
The pioneer Headmaster of Rutenga Primary was Cuthbert Muzara. “I had to transfer from Chengami Primary to open this new school, which was meant for children of railway workers,” narrated Muzara who is now retired. The veteran educationist served for three years before transferring to Chikadzi Primary School. Interestingly before leaving the school, in recognition of his efforts the community asked him to appoint his successor.
“The community before my departure tasked me to choose one who would fill my gap, I settled for Dhewa, who later took over the reigns,” said Musazara. Dhewa served from 1985 to 1996. He left after being promoted to Chemvana Primary School and Thomas Muwungani took over the ‘hot seat’.
Muwungani superintended the relocation exercise of the school. An exercise that set the tone for the development prospects of the school. “The Old School site had a limited space for development. Vibrations from the railway line caused by both the goods train and passenger train, apart from disturbing, caused great damage to infrastructure. But the chief reason for the relocation was the decision by the National Railways to concentrate on their sole role of being a transporter,” Gibson Zhou who is the Station Master at Rutenga Railway Station.
“The school by then was owned by the National Railways of Zimbabwe. The logistical work of weaning the school from the National Railways of Zimbabwe and handing it over to the Mwenezi Rural District Council was undertaken by the school head. A responsibility which Muwungani successfully carried out” added Zhou.
A senior Human Resources Officer, Sifelani Simango feels very little is being done in recognition of the role that was played by the National Railways of Zimbabwe in the development of the school.
“The National Railways of Zimbabwe donated building material and furniture for the new school, but today very little is said about the role played by the National Railways towards the development of the school. To this day, some of the National Railway houses are leased to the school to cater for the accommodation of teachers. A gesture which shows the anchoring role of the National Railways of Zimbabwe in the development of not only the school, but the Growth Point in general “explained Simango who had been stationed at Rutenga Railway Station for 21years.
A resident of Rutenga who witnessed the relocation exercise, Chumachehore Munashe applauded the move as it saved learners and teachers from a possible horror crush in the event that a train would lose control.
“The sight was just bad. A school cannot be allowed to be inches from the railway line. What if the train loses control? ” lamented Chumachehore.
The school started to operate at the new site in 1999. Just like the biblical Moses, Muwungani did not live long to witness the fruits of the seeds he had sown. The veteran administrator passed on in 2004. Strike Ncube who is now a Schools Inspector took over and steered the ship for almost thirteen years before he was promoted to the District Office. It is during his tenure at Rutenga Primary’s academic prowess started to be felt in the district.
“It was during his time that a culture of hardworking was inculcated at the school, his work ethic was second to none” said Tennyson Mukapa who is the current head of Rutenga.
Mukapa joined Rutenga Primary as a classroom teacher in 2001 after transferring from Dinhe Primary School. He was appointed a substantive Deputy Head in 2010.
“Ncube was the Head and l was the Deputy, he groomed I learnt a lot from him, good administrators always produce good leaders” said Mukapa.
In February 2014, young Mukapa was appointed substantive Head at Dare Primary School in Chivi. It is at Dare Primary school where his leadership qualities and ability to develop a school came to the limelight. He transformed the school to one of the best schools in the Province. In May 2017, Mukapa transferred to Rutenga Primary School.
“Mwenezi had always been home to me, l started work at Dinhe and having worked at Rutenga as a teacher and a Deputy Head l had an added advantage of knowing the environment,” said Mukapa.
In 2017, the Grade Seven pass rate rose from 63% to 92% in 2018 it was 86,4% then 2019 the pass rate was 90,4%.
“We emphasis on quality, for instance in 2017 we had 125 candidates, out of this 46 of them had a single digit aggregate,” explained Mukapa.
Good results have seen parents having confidence in the school. Mukapa pays tribute to his team of hardworking teachers and the support from parents for the impressive results. “My staff is disciplined and hard-working, l always tell them to teach with love,” said Mukapa.
Morale amongst teachers had been low given concerns over their salaries. The 2020 learning calendar was partly affected by teachers’ strike, as they called for better remuneration. One would wonder how a school administrator would keep his troops going under these circumstances.
“Teaching is a calling, love for one’s profession comes first, this is the attitude l inculcate in my staff ” said Mukapa as he shared his winning formula.
Mukapa had showers of praises on his Grade Seven teachers for going an extra mile. “As early as half six, Grade Seven pupils and their teachers would be busy in their classrooms, They are the first to come and the last to go”.
While the academic performance of the school had been welcomed in the district, it is the overall transformation of the school that had been on the lips of many. The general state of the school is superb. Well – painted classroom blocks, neatly cut grass and flowers make Rutenga Primary an envy of many.
The blue roofed State of the Art Administration block at the school is a ‘tourist attraction’. “The flowers and the State of the Art Administration block, that was my vision of rebranding the school” shared Mukapa.
The unique structure has a vast staff room, a spacious reception, six offices, a kitchen and toilets. One would give credit to whoever came up with the plan of this building.
“l did Technical Drawing at school, so l drew the plan of this administration block. I wanted something that was unique which would fit in the changing world,” said shared Mukapa as he exposed his other talent.
The administration block not only gives image to Rutenga Primary but it has changed the face of Rutenga Growth point and Mwenezi District at large.
The ever-green grass and well maintained flowers have attracted the community to visit the school for photo shooting.
“I did flowers at Dare Primary and they helped to beautify the school, so when l came here l simply transferred the idea,” added Mukapa.
The well designed flower beds are at the main entrance of the school gate and in front of all classroom blocks. The beautiful flowers around the State of the Art administration block gives an out of this world environment. Rutenga Primary is in Mwenezi which fall under geographical region five and how does one manage to go green?
“Where there is a will there is a way. It is all about having a vision and identifying people who share the same vision. Our Grounds man, Patrick Hamandishe is doing a great job in maintaining and keeping the project going” said Mukapa.
In 2017 Rutenga Primary School hosted the Provincial Merit Awards among several functions that have been hosted by the school.
“We feel proud when we host visitors, that shows we are doing something. The success of the school, is the success of the District, Province and the Nation,” said Mukapa. The District Schools Inspector for Mwenezi, Phillip Gumbo praised the school for its general outlook.
“The school is wonderful, the environment, the flowers and the State of the Art Administration block is unique. We urge the Head to keep up the good work,” said Gumbo. Public Service District Human Resources Manager Last Gondo went at length showering praises at Mukapa for the developments at the school. “Rutenga Primary has given Mwenezi District a new face. There is a lot to learn from the school. The flowers are good, the gardening project at the school is wonderful. The State of the Art Administration block is one of its kind in the District if not in the Province, all this had been witnessed under the leadership of Mr Mukapa,”said Gondo who also recommended for the construction of a guard room at the main entrance of the school.
While many believe that Rutenga is the school, Mukapa believes that a lot still needs to be done at the school.
“We need a State of the Art Computer Laboratory, more classrooms to cater for the ever increasing enrollment and more projects at the school fortunately we have already ventured in fish farming” said Mukapa as he projected on the future of the school.
Infrastructure development is one of the key pillars of the Competence Based Curriculum. As such the construction of ideal teaching and learning facilities is of paramount importance. Computer labs, administration blocks and modern early childhood classroom blocks are some of the must haves at schools if the successful implementation of the Competence Based Curriculum is anything to go by.
Government through the Schools per Capita grant had unveiled funds to schools which can be used to boost their infrastructure. Rutenga Primary School seems to be moving with times.
By CUTHBERT MASHOKO