Monthly Archives: July 2010

2010/07/09 Chidobe Village Primary School Visit

2010/07/09 Chidobe Village Primary School

Along a dusty dry road a few kilometers from Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe is Chidobe Primary school sign. Just across the sand road is the school. Levels 0-7 are present.


Deputy Head Master, Nomusa

As part of our journey, we collect data, visit other areas and explore to understand the differing ways of life in the region. We hope to find answers to many of our challenges this way. On this day, we arrived at the Chidobe Primary School shortly after 1pm.  As we stepped out of the van during an unannounced visit the curious children instantly began shouting “Makiwa! Makiwa!,” which means “white person” in Ndebele.  We met up with the Deputy Headmaster, Nomusa who graciously allowed and accompanied us to tour the grounds, visit classrooms and interview teachers.


Chidobe Primary School (A Nambia Name) was established in the 1940′s, is a very well established and older schools located in a rural area outside of Victoria Falls.  Neighboring Jabulani Villagers and other residence consider it a “rich” school, since they have the luxury of electricity and running water amongst other small but important factors.  The emphasis for study in the Chidobe Primary School is on the importance of reading and writing in hopes the children learn to effectively communicate in the world.  The children are taught Ndebele as their first language and English as their second.  English lessons begin as early as the level 1, or 1stgrade.  Currently, the Chidobe school services approximately  300 local children and employs 8 full time teachers.

A Level 7 student's attention is sharp for the teacherr's lesson.



When asked about possible theft at the school, a common problem for the Jabulani Preschool,  Nomusa stated that the school did have a dish satellite for T.V. but it was stolen.  Since then they have hired a night guard and have had no problem with theft.  However, in the following statement, she explained that the money used to pay the guard affects the pay of all the teachers, a large price to pay for security.  For now the school can find ways to afford it, but it seems to be a bit of a struggle for everyone.  The school runs year round with April and August being their break months.  All of the children must wear uniforms and are scanned 3 times a week for hygiene issues at their regular outdoor assembly.

In talking with Nomusa, who has been with the school for 8 years, she told me of the problems here, with broken furniture being at the top of the list.  Many classroom benches were broken and to fix them means taking apart another piece of furniture to use the parts.  Needless to say, it becomes a slow process.  In looking at the architecture of the benches and desks, I wonder if there may be a more effective method in building such furniture.   This may be a project worth following up with.

Chidobe Level 4 student cleaning the hard floors. Taking ownership of their school and education.


Another dilemma for this school, as with most others in the area, is the lack of textbooks and common school supplies.  Stationary, pencils, and markers are all tools that we take for granted in the United States and are vital to successful education.  The writing notebooks used in Chidobe have been donated by the organization UNICEF, indicated by the blue logo on the front of each pamphlet.  UNICEF works to improve the lives of those in need through schools institutions and health care facilities.  UNICEF successfully assists in the overwhelming needs of people living in poverty, like much of the rural villagers in Africa.

Students sit in strict attention on each end of the broken benches. Broken furniture is common at even the "richest" rural schools.


Lastly, Nomusa indicates that the school needs more “sticky stuff,” a putty type product that attaches paper and posters to a cement wall.  She wishes the school could have more material on the wall for learning in a context rich environment as well as work done by the children. They do use many modern teaching strategies, but do so with many challenges otherwise overlooked in more wealthy regions and countries.

Our first visit was to the 7th grade classroom.  Here students are encouraged through lessons and projects to learn about improving the health of their own communities in the village.  Advice on public health issues and common diseases that come with rural life are incorporated in daily learning.  The teacher, Patience, instructs students how to make clean drinking water from a cloth filter, a follow up from a prior hands-on project, and reviews the effects of Kwaswarker’s syndrome, which results from not acquiring enough protein in the diet.

UNICEF has provided some material such as writing notebooks where and when possible. Schools have a difficult time obtaining such materials along wiht curriculum due to economic and socail challenges.





A female student raisers her hand to recite the English lesson from the chalk board.

The next stop was the 3rd grade classroom, instructed by teacher Sandra who has been with the school for 3 years. The students were learning English words of commonly found items in their village.  At one point she instructed two pupils to go outside and return with items on the list.  One student brought back grass and the other soil.  They were a bit shy in our presence but warmed up as we began interacting.

Teaching English vocabulary for future global communication is the highest priority. Sandra, a teacher at the school for 3 years, conducts tactile and verbal lessons for English nouns found in their environment.


Students clean the floor with "Cobra Plant" leaves. The leave fibers break down eaily and leave a dung and clay floor appearing shiny and clean.

As we moved to the 2nd grade classroom Nomusa showed us how the children were cleaning the floors with leaves from the “African Cobra” plant.  They were all on their knees happily scrubbing the polished clay floor with handfuls of leaves.  Apparently, when the leaves are scrubbed on the floor, the matter breaks down easily leaving the oils for a shiny and cleaner looking floor.  This process illustrates pride in cleanliness and appearance of the school.  Can you imagine American 2nd graders scrubbing the floor with leaves?  As we took photos, notes and interacted with the students, Nomusa instructed them to sing us a song.  The 2ndgraders honored us with several songs and a rendition of “If Your Happy and You know it,” all clapping, stomping, and turning on cue.  It was very cute and we were impressed by their English vocabulary and simple joy.

Level 4 students take ques from thier teacher to sing the next song. All songs are sang with natural kinesthetic rythems commonlyn found in African cultures. The students regard song and rythm highly and is a key tool in education. As much of Africa, Art is the key to opening inpsiration and gathering knowledge.



As we left the 2nd grade classroom, we briefly visited the 4th grade and then off to the fields behind the school.  Nomusa told me that the school has a Netball team who are at a national competition and were not attending this day.  She also informed me of her desire to learn basketball and the hope to follow up with that soon.  The football (soccer) field was quite large and completely grounded with sand.  The goals were made from large logs, 3 for each goal, and we were able to photograph some of the boys displaying their best game faces. Further down the way was the tennis courts and preschool.

Football (soccer) game faces boys. They stand demonstrating their intimidating stances during the hyped and popular World Cup contest occuring in neighboring South Africa. The football field is sand as most all fields are in the region. They stand tall under the stick, make-shift goal post, ready to be remembered.





As we were leaving the children once again showed their curious nature by wanting to see their pictures on the cameras, which is common and pleasant to see their excitement.  Quickly we were swarmed with little eager faces jumping to see their faces on Todd’s small LCD screen.  I wish we could print out the pictures right there for them. How I wish they could see themselves.




Students dance during singing. Common to most African Cultures, dancing and kinesthetic expression are highly valued as educational tools and cultural norms.


Words of the day:

Ndaba-ezinduna  –  The Hue of the chiefs (Ndebele)

Makiwa – White person (Ndebele)


Todd Puchalski  ;)~

2010/07/07 On our Arrival to South Africa and Zimbabwe

2010/07/07  On our Arrival to South Africa and Zimbabwe:  


Victoria Falls rural Airport. A welcome sight after 36 tireless hours of continuous travel from California to Zimbabwe, Southern Africa.

At JFK Airport in New York we had a 10 hour layover. Arrived just before 1am EST and found a nice cold and hard tile floored corner of Terminal 4 to try and get a few hours of sleep. We were delayed in N.Y. over an hour, and being trapped in the 64th row smeared into the window in fairly tiny box seats was tough, hot, stinky and long. Made me think of the unfortunate (by our choice) life of a caged chicken.

We got into Johannesburg, South Africa after 17.5 hours in flight, cramped and delusional from exhaustion. We were awake the majority of the past 40+ hours. After landing, we ran across the large airport to reach gate A22 for our one flight-a-day shot and making it to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Literally getting to the gate to board the shuttle exactly on time for departure was relieving.

Next, a short 1:45 minute flight into Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe put us on target. We had only one concern after clearing immigration and purchasing 30 day re-entry Zimbabwe Visas. Was our luggage and bags there? See, before departing N.Y., they unloaded the plane’s Cargo to lighten up the aircraft. Since it was hot, and it is one of the longest flights you can make, the plane needed to be lighter in order to take-off. It had to have full tanks of fuel in order to make the distance across the Atlantic Ocean, while the heat would make it harder somehow to take off. The captain’s exact words were “…to give us the best possible chance of clearing the runway in time…”  So, we had doubts our supplies would be coming with us. To our good Omen, our entire luggage was there and fully accounted for. We are ready for sleep. 48 hours after leaving for LAX Airport we are finally here.

Airlink - Subsidiery of South African Airways and our last hop from Johannesburg to Victoria Falls.


Joseph, a local friend and native, was sent to help us collect our things and get through customs, which is sort of silly. With 5 very large and heavy bags plus carry-on equipment that included most of my photography equipment, 3 laptops and several other snap-shot cameras and a small video camera stuffed into 4 more bags, we breezed though as hoped. Basically, got through without any searches and only having to repeat that we had a few small gifts for local friends and a lot of camping equipment, that its monetary value was less than $100 USD, and that yes, all those bags are for only 2 people which caused the questioning to begin with. Good times in this tiny little airport in the middle of Sub-Saharan Africa.




Once through customs, we were happily greeted by several local friends. 6 Ndebele’s from the Jabulani Village we work with directly, Lisa Markham representing her Integre Organization and UNICEF, as well as our friend and go-to guy, Fletcher. Amongst happy and grateful hugs and tears and lots of smiles, hand shacks and pats, Fletcher loaded us into his little tour van and went to drop our Jabulani friends off at the village, and head to Pamusha Lodge, our Home Base.

Lister Nkomo of the Jabulani Village is our closest asset adn Direct link into the Village. SHe is the wife of the late Krawl head Bigboy, head of the Jabulani Preschool, and aid to the Weelness Center and Medicla Clinic Program of NAP.


Nomalonga and her new Baby, Angel. Jabulani Villager & Frie

Jabulani Friends, Andrew and Calipso. Calipso is one of the few remaining Artisans responsible for the hand carved wooden statues available now through NAP.














Clothes washing in progress. Dry time takes at least 24 hours in the Winter months. With only 3 changes of clothes, and repeat wearing, this is essential to keep in fresh clothes.

We settled in, ate a solid meal of Zambezi BreamRiver fish, brown rice and surprisingly more vegetables as things are slowly improving in the region. We hooked up our laptop to the internet, and started organizing then spent an hour at the fire with a little wine with Fletcher and the manager of Pamusha Lodge and NAP friend, David Makansa. A Good nights sleep could not have come a moment sooner.

Today, we had a hardy, heavy protein English Breakfast. We then went to meet Lisa Markham and some of her crew at her Offices. We discussed my role in her marketing campaign to photograph their programs and the local schools as well as a journey to Binga and the sites to be photographed for the new Community Based Tourism plan. We also discussed HIV and many of their issues and current resolve locally and how they may help NAP and Dr. Wendy improve HIV/Aids education and programs sustainably in the Jabulani Village.

The rest of our day will consist of organizing, writing this, going through our supplies and more…. It’s beautiful here, and during Winter here it has similar attributes in weather as Spring in Southern California. Low 40′s to mid 70′s, partly cloudy, breezy from time to time but dry.

Pamusha Lodge @ the fire pit. Pamusha has helped NAP volunteers out with incredible rates and aid in helping us do our job here. Very supportive staff and beautiful & safe grounds to reflect and conduct business.

We had some reports of high animal volume and elephant activity in the area. We are planning a short Safari holiday later in the month and have great prospects as thousands of elephants and all creatures are heading into the vast national parks to protect themselves from the heavy pouching that occurs during this time of year when animals concentrate due to limited water accessibility.

Word of the Day: “Jabulani” = Be happy, No worries. Also the name given to the village we are working with to this point.

Tune in again for much more to come as we get rolling into action here.




;) ~

2010/07/05 Starting the Journey to Africa with a Surprise

2010/07/05  Starting the Journey to Africa with a Surprise


Sitting so Comfortably by the window on our transit to Zimbabwe, Africa. Just passing over Nambibia as the sun is rising


Any journey is best welcomed with good omens. Some are better than others, and some are just pleasant surprises. On our first leg from L.A. to N.Y. in route to Zimbabwe, we were upgraded to business class.  Oh, what a good omen this was. I became so comfortable over the course of those 5 hours I didn’t want to get off the plane.

I have never traveled out of economy class until this day. How familiar packed into those stiff and less than appropriate seats for hours, literally rubbing elbows and some times more with those nearby. Simply, it sucks. Bad to no service, everything from meals to earphones cost and of poor quality. Even boarding the aircraft was silly when we approached at the gate, showed our tickets then were told to use the next line over. This concluded for us into moving back and around roped lines as to not cross the “Red Carpet” laid down for premium, gold or whatever other clients. Strangest part was out of the 30 people or so getting on and having to do this, only 2 were allowed to cross the little Red Carpet that we observed which was no more than a red door mat. Huh? What’s the point?

It was of great surprise when just after seating the stewardess came up and asked us to move seats. Of course this has happened before, but more a lateral, or move back. Never an upgrade or anything of much worth; so when she said to go up front to seat 5A, I was almost confused.

I ended up being the first seat on the plane, with plush leather seats and electronic leg rests. More body room then I could use. I actually did a little light yoga stretches right there. The service was amazing, with lots of smiles, healthy prepared food, bottomless wine, personal wifi video monitors with sound reducing headphones, soft pillows and thin comforters for blankets. I even laughed when I received my first beverage, before even taxiing to the run way, and a little cup of warm nuts.  HA HA!  They actually heated the nuts.

My bed on the cold and hard tile floor in JFK Airport. The joys of long layovers.


Dinner was 5 courses starting with rosemary sourdough roll, sashimi salmon wrapped asparagus spears with capers, mixed greens with fruit and Raspberry Vinaigrette, Herb crusted Chicken, mashed potatoes and mixed veggies. End with double scoop butterscotch and fudge Sunday. And while watching my second movie, laid back better than I could at home, they tried to feed me milk and fresh hot cookies.  Are you kidding me?! Good Omen for sure. My only complaint, after the 10 hour layover in the terminal, I will return to row 64 in economy for the next 16 hour flight from N.Y. to Johannesburg, South Africa.  Yeah! ;) ~