Farai Kuvirimirwa Features Writer
A narrow tarmac road, riddled with red-soiled potholes, drifts between rows of musasa trees.
The road winds and ascends a hill, casting an idyllic picture of serenity. However, behind the trajectory
there is a wide array of industries whose chimneys are puffing dark grey smoke.
And this road leads to Ruvimbo Special School, near Harare Hospital in Southerton.
Silver gates with diamond mesh wires are wide open with large inscription “Ruvimbo Special School Welcomes You”.
Warm greetings are given by pupils in brown uniforms, rendering a real warm reception to the institution.
And like the contrasting environmental pitches of serenity and filth, there are also problems bedevilling the institution.
Ruvimbo Special School caters for more than 118 students who are both mentally and physically disabled.
Notably the school accommodates students with mental illness, Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy, epileptic, hydrocephalic, microcephalic, autism and speech impairment as well as para and quadriplegics among many disabilities common in our society.
According to the school headmistress, Mrs Hellen Mandisodza, the school follows the formal school curriculum in addition to training and students in various skills such as art, gardening sawing, knitting, chicken rearing and knitting looms.
“Our staff complement averages 15 teachers and 10 non-teaching staff, who include former students,” she said.
Mrs Mandisodza said the school enrolled students with the help of the Schools Psychological Services.
“We enrol students after the Psychological Services conduct an assessment on potential students who we then assess to see where to place them in our school.”
She explained: “Some students come from special classes in formal schools before fitting them into the 14 classes we have.”
The school head also said they currently have four employees who are former students from the school.
These are Thembeza Nedi, Rosewitter Njazi, Gibble Mukandawire and James Bhasvi.
“After leaving the school, most students still take the school as a second home. They continue to visit and want to associate themselves with our school despite
having left for more than six years,” Mrs Mandisodza said.
She also said students with disabilities need special and tender care such that they do the same to fellow citizens.
“Students in our school need love and attention. When they get that they feel special and become attached to everyone close to them. The youngest student is aged six while the oldest is 25,” she said.
Mrs Mandisodza said the school has had a its fair share of challenges during her tenure at the school.
“Currently, we are need wheelchairs, brown trousers and jerseys for this winter, clothes, toys, stationery, food and beverages such as mahewu which are not cold this winter. Some students are vulnerable, orphaned and are taken care of by grandmothers.”
“We have had difficulties in paying our electricity and water bills which is largely caused by late payment of school fees. We are appealing for assistance to overcome the challenges that hinder the effective running of the school,” she said.
Recently Mimosa Mining Company donated a 32-seater minibus, two computers and an industrial gas stove to the school.
Mimosa corporate finance manager Mr Wilbert Manyika said the company has included the institution in their budget as part of the platinum giant’s social responsibility programmes.
“In times of need, organisations have to show love and give all they can to show them love. They are not alone in what they do and we see them as special hence we prioritise their grievances all the time.”
“In our budget there is an allocation of US$10 000 every school term which will go towards food for the students. People tend to forget and neglect disadvantaged and disabled members of our society. We all need to open eyes and see what others might not see and do what they do not want to do.
“During the school holidays we have to share memorable moments together, show love and partner them in all things they need,” Mr Manyika said.
On the ground, the work of the staff is palpable.
Thirty-five-year-old Njazi is another of Ruvimbo’s carers.
She is responsible for taking care of a paraplegic youngster seated comfortably in a wheelchair.
Rosewitter is more than a mother to the more than 118 students, and especially to one paraplegic boy confined to a wheelchair.
A former student of Ruvimbo, she has devoted most of her time and love to the institution and students under its care
Rosewitter was born with Down’s syndrome. She is the second born in a family of four.
Travelling everyday from Tafara to the Southerton-based school has become part of her everyday life.
Then there is 28-year-old Thembeza Nedi, who suffers from a mental handicap.
Nedi travels by himself by train or commuter omnibus every day from Dzivarasekwa, where he lives with his widowed father.
A talented marimba (xylophone) player, he is employed as a groundsman in addition to assisting the children.
“I need to further my art skills on the organ be it electrical or manual. Many people might think I cannot do anything by myself but I feel I can do anything given the necessary training,” Nedi said.