time at an urban school with an enrolment and staff complement more than twice any of his previous schools in Masvingo.
Zengeza has close to 2 000 students and 90 teachers who come in two sessions.
The school had A-Level status, which presented a big challenge for someone without experience in such a set up.
But Mr Runesu knew he would triumph.
“I told myself that I should be able to manage.
“The schools were different, and the systems were different because this is a Government school, while my previous schools were community schools and the Catholic Silveira High. But I told myself that I should manage.”
Indeed, he has managed.
In 12 years, he has not only conquered the “big” school that Zengeza is, but also similar and “bigger” schools in Harare Province, in providing quality education.
He can now easily convince any parent in Harare to drive the potholed road to this school in a high-density suburb and this has nothing to do with the modest US$60 school fees per term.
According to rankings released by the Zimbabwe School Examinations Council for 2011 public examinations, Zengeza High 1 School had the best A-Level results in Harare, with a 100 percent pass rate.
Sixteen pupils scored 15 points, while four had 20 points.
Harare Province also has such former Group A schools as Prince Edward, Churchill, Allan Wilson, Queen Elizabeth, Girls High and so on.
While Zengeza High 1 School is on the ascendancy, other schools, especially Allan Wilson, have been on the decline.
Allan Wilson came fifth from last in the 353 schools on the list.
Zengeza faired better than such traditionally better performing high-density schools as Highfield High and Harare High.
A school that attains Zengeza High’s feat must be doing something right.
“We feel we have achieved something and it has been a good year,” said Mr Runesu.
“We have been performing well over the years and this result is not isolated. Since 2000 we have been doing well even at ‘O’ Level.
“We got past through lean years around 2008 as most teachers were lost due to brain drain but last year we shot up and we are regaining the heights of previous years,” he explained.
At some point in 2008, the school had to hire a student awaiting his results to teach A-Level Maths: the department had nearly collapsed.
However, statistics of the school results show a very good pass rate at A-Level.
In 2000, the school posted a 95 percent pass rate; 96,8 percent in 2001, 95,55 percent (2002); 99 percent (2003); 93,9 (2004); 99,2 (2005); 98,53 (2006); 99,2 (2007); 88 percent (2008); 89 percent 2009; 88 percent (2010) and 100 percent in 2011.
This means the headmaster and his team are doing well.
“This is a result of teamwork and efficient management. We work as a team,” he said.
“When results are released, we come together and discuss methods of the successful teachers while looking at the challenges of the less successful ones. We do this so that the good ones share with the poor ones. We want to build a focused team,” he said.
Best teachers — Mathematics teacher, Mr Charles Nerwande and Mrs Edith Muguti who teaches Business Studies and achieved 36 and 24 “A”s in their respective subjects — have had to share a lot with their colleagues.
Mr Nerwande says it is all about finishing the syllabus early and psyching the students for the big test while Mrs Muguti believes it is about nurturing a reading culture and following current trends through The Business section of The Herald.
Supervision is also very important.
The head, with the able help of his deputy, ensures that teachers are monitored and supervised in terms of lesson attendance and teaching.
The school has a “small but vibrant” library, to use Mr Runesu’s words, that ensures that students, in particular, the A-Levels, get the best reading materials.
Mr Runesu says that while the school might not be able to afford a textbook for each child, the library provides a reference point.
The school has since 2010 moved into another world: the world of e-learning as students have science demonstrations on a giant plasma screen thanks to computer software provided by a local company.
Zengeza and Danhiko are the only two institutions that have such a facility in Harare.
Zengeza, which is connected to the Internet, also benefitted from President Mugabe’s schools computerisation programme and has since been increasing the number of computers.
Computers are taught as a subject at both “O” and “A” Level, although there are limited numbers owing to insufficient computers.
The computer labs and the library block were officially opened by the then Information Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo in 2003.
The school falls back on a 30KVA generator for power supply in these days of the all too familiar “load-shedding”.
Parental and School Development Committee support is also key to Zengeza’s success.
Mr Runesu testifies that parents at the school have been instrumental in helping the school acquire learning materials, chemicals for science learning and by providing incentives for teachers “in these hard times”.
Most of Zengeza’s teachers are qualified with only a couple coming in as relief teachers.
But the highly qualified staff are difficult to keep.
“We have a problem in commercials and science subjects as we experience high turnover as teachers are wooed by industry,” says Mr Runesu.
It nearly turned ugly last year.
The day was September 30.
There were just a few days to go before public examinations. Two A Level science teachers left the school to join the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority.
The school had to hire the services of two Bindura University final-year students, who luckily managed to see the job through.
The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority is also said to be in the habit of seducing teachers from Zengeza.
The learning regime at Zengeza, which sees about nine hours’ learning, even where there is “hot-seating” also contributes to the success of the school.
Exam classes are afforded vacation lessons during the April and August holidays to help them prepare for their final exams.
The school also sends exam-class students for seminars.
The school has gender parity with almost the same number of boys and girls. Girls are encouraged to take up sciences, a field that used to be a near-preserve for males.
Away from the hectic world of books, Zengeza participates in various sporting activities, though, by the headmaster’s admission, they are far from being a powerhouse.
Drum majorettes have been the leading lights in the non-academic activities as the school has for the past three years been the top Harare school at the Harare Agricultural Show and have a trophy to show for it.
Last year, the school’s drum majorettes were the best at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in Bulawayo.
The school won the Secretary’s Bell, an award for excellence given by the Education Ministry in each province in 1998 and in 2008.
Students from Zengeza have participated, and won in essay competitions like the Sadc Essay Writing Competition and the Potraz Essay Writing Competition.
In the next decade or so Zengeza is set to consolidate its academic excellence while it seeks to challenge the last vestige of former Group A schools’ superiority.
“We want to strengthen our sports and culture activities and nurture sportsmen,” says Mr Runesu.
“Sports have become a very powerful industry.
“We have been given extra land by the Chitungwiza Municipality and we are going to create good facilities for sports like rugby and cricket so that we become a powerhouse in sport.
“We have been sending our students abroad on scholarships for academic pursuits while other schools have been concentrating on sports,” he said.
But who is this man that has changed the face of Zengeza High School, a school that was officially opened on August 8, 1980 and has some notable alumni including University of Zimbabwe’s Dr Mano.
If anyone expects him to be the strict, fearsome and imposing headmaster, they are getting it all wrong.
Mr Runesu, aged 51, is a father figure — to the 2 000 children at Zengeza and two at home — and is also a devout Christian.
The easy, respectful rapport between students and teachers on one hand and him on the other was almost palpable when The Herald visited the school.
Mr Runesu has experience in teaching Geography and History, having spent his years at various schools since 1984.
He became headmaster in 1989 and holds professional qualifications ranging from a Certificate in Education to Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Education.
He has one guiding principle.
“I try to work hard and be acceptable to the community I work in,” he says.
“I try to create a friendly environment that offers respect without fear.”