We would like to begin this story with a big thanks to our many friends, supporters, funders – your good will, your good thoughts are a blessing for us, in which we can thrive and blossom!
The Kufunda Waldorf Journey, which also marks the revival of Waldorf in Zimbabwe, began in 2010 when Florence, a German Doctor sent two of Kufunda’s preschool teachers to a look and learn visit to Waldorf Schools in South Africa. Kufunda’s work with pre-schools and kindergartens is happening seven partnering (rather poor) rural communities in a sharing and learning relationship.
Our two Anna’s came back from South Africa full of new ideas, enthusiasm and samples of toys they had produced. They immediately set out to visit all of Kufunda’s communities and facilitate workshops for the rural teachers– it was their first time as facilitators – it was a success! Both women grew through the experience – their first time outside the country, first time to be recognized and congratulated for their work, which is – as for most of our preschool teachers – voluntary work. Parents are too poor to pay school fees, and the preschools are built through community efforts and contributions without outside help, mainly to give the many orphans a place. No one has formal training in anything – the women yearn to learn!
Both Anna’s plus a third teacher went again in 2011, and we also started one week intensive seminars in Kufunda with two wonderful teachers from South Africa – these workshops in 2011 and 2012 accommodated over 25 preschool teachers each time. We did evaluation visits to all 16 preschools since and got good feedback from the communities: the children love the Waldorf elements, parents note the change! Morning rings, story telling and playing with self-made toys are now integrated into an otherwise harsh reality. In previous years, when the Zim Dollar was still in place, donations went a long way and a daily meal could be cooked for the kids – this is no longer possible since 2009.
In 2011 Florence, the german doctor, was approached by Laura Dreyer, who had just returned from Cape Town to live again in Zimbabwe. Laura expressed a strong will to found a Waldorf School in Harare, and needed help and connections. And indeed, in January 2012 Nyeredzi – Shona for “Shining Star” – opened with a Cape Town trained Zimbabwean preschool teacher, Hlekisani Guvakuva. Hlekisani again was happy to welcome Kufunda teachers for look and learn visits and open her preschool doors for half-day seminars once a month – and people came and learned!! This has created a little network and our three kindergartens nearest Harare meet for celebrations of the year’s festivals, and we offer trips to animal parks for the kids to learn. We have a group of around 15 regular teachers from the partnering kindergartens eager to go on with some kind of training, and funding allowed us to send one of the Anna’s for formal preschool teachers training to Nairobi, Kenya, three times a year until 2015. She again is by now so moved by what she learns in the training modules that the small kindergarten in her home kraal is becoming a training center for the other preschools in her surrounding. It’s wonderful how naturally and integrated in the African day-to-day Waldorf spreads…
Our new “baby” is a first Waldorf class in Nyeredzi in Harare, for which a fully trained Zimbabwean teacher was to come from Cape Town to start it – but no trace of her…. and 7 Kufunda children waiting to start. We found a warm hearted mature infant teacher, Juliette Mudzinganyama, open to dive into the Waldorf elements – for many years she has a connection to our preschool teacher’s husband who is still in training in Cape Town, meaning, Waldorf Pedagogy is not entirely new to her. Hlekisani’s husband will join us in 2014 by the way, to take over the older kids from Juliette.
The Kufunda parents agreed to this alternative, given that three Waldorf experienced persons can work with the teacher in the beginning. We even have a 16 year old Waldorf student from Germany with us, Ariadne Birth, a volunteer at Kufunda, who will be teaching music and Eurythmy until February. Our school opened last week – and now 8 kids are the smiling new pupils every day, some of them still wondering how they could end up in such friendly surroundings, and receiving a hug and a smile for a greeting each day instead of the usual beatings and punishments so “normal” in conventional schools.
It’s magic amidst many challenges – for one: taking the kids to town every day, introducing healthy meals, which Nyeredzi is providing – as the kids are from poor backgrounds: fieldworkers’ homes, night guards from the farm, and Kufunda facilitators’ kids. It will take special efforts to involve the parents, get them from their fields and cooking pots into Kufunda for feedback, pictures, or into town to visit the school and meet the teacher.
Waldorf Education is no longer known in Harare or Zimbabwe – except perhaps for a few individuals whom we hope to reach in the near future. There seems to have been a strong and vibrant anthroposophical movement long back, and a Pre- and Primary school for a couple of years in the 90’s, until political circumstances and apparently also internal difficulties put an end to all activities. We haven’t gone public yet – for one because up until Nyeredzi kindergarten opened in 2012, Waldorf elements stayed “rural”, including Kufunda outside Harare. And we, the few persons dreaming of joyful learning experiences and age appropriate learning methods for our kids, are all engaged in our professional lives and also the country’s challenges and don’t have an association or parent group behind us to pave the way.
How could we start on such thin grounds? For one: we felt we couldn’t wait until the working and living conditions in Zimbabwe improve, until – over many years – enough individuals know and want it, until enough parents can afford the school fees we would need to build and maintain a proper school. We need a new generation of creative, open hearted, free-thinking individuals now! Laura Dreyer is giving us the rooms for the school in her home, and monetary donations are there for a start from Kufunda, for the first half-year, until we have successfully fund-raised for the first say three years. We call it home schooling for now – and it feels like a home, when the youngest of the class can slip through the classroom door to join the kindergarten kids if they feel like it….