Creating a Safe Haven for Marginalised Children
BULAWAYO: Spare the rod and spoil the child. This principle may sound harsh and dogmatic, but for Febie Chuma who was born in a family of ten children and has always had scores of children around her, discipline is something of utmost importance in the development of a child.
It is a Wednesday and the time is 0810 hours. Febie greets me with a warm smile and welcomes me into a classroom. It is a big room with colourful pictures on the wall. There are small desks and chairs neatly arranges in the room. The floor is covered with an old brown carpet and a big box full of toys is on the floor. Febie and I sit facing each other. It is a chilly morning and Febie tells me the story of her life.
Febie trained as a primary school teacher at a Reformed Church in Zimbabwe tertiary college. After training, she worked as a teacher in the rural areas of Zimbabwe. However, with her husband working in the city of Bulawayo, Febie had to give up her employment to join her family.
“It was an abstemious moment for me. I had got so attached to my pupils but at the same time it was impossible for me to live apart from my husband. Unfortunately, at that time I could not speak Isindebele, the language of the region, so I could not teach at primary school level,” says Febie.
Once she had settled down in her new home in Bulawayo, that spirit of wanting to be with children again got the better of her so she decided to train as a pre-school teacher at Hlekweni Institute. She worked with a number of pre-schools in Bulawayo and then in Harare when her husband had a brief stint there.
“When we got back from Harare to settle in Bulawayo, I realised that I had to do something about the children who were always at my home. Some of these children were orphans and living with grandparents who could not afford the costs charged by the few pre-schools and children’s nurseries in the community. I therefore resolved to start a pre-school to assist these marginalised children,” she says.
She named the pre-school Noah’s Ark. Febie explains that Noah’s Ark had all the animal species that God wanted to be saved. Her pre-school has children from rich families, poor families, abandoned children, children living with HIV and are from diverse tribal backgrounds.
The pre-school started with an enrolment of fifty children. A majority of these children were not paying anything. They had worn out clothes. Many walked bear-footed and some had nothing to protect them from the chilly weather. Febie, who is a dexterous knitter, would sometimes give out some of the jerseys she would have made for her children to the needy children from the community. This endeared her to a number of destitute parents and guardians and this resulted in more children coming to the pre-school. Now she does not know how to define her institution.
“There are children from all different age-groups. Some working parents bring their toddlers here so that I look after them during work. Some are the right age for pre-school and some are ready for Grade Zero. I find it difficult to turn away children particularly when I realise that this institution is the only option for the parents,” Febie reminisces.
The increasing number of children has however resulted in the institution facing some challenges. Food, toys, equipment and furniture is no longer adequate to support every child and the need for clothing continues to rise.
As we continue with our interview, there is a stream of children coming into the classroom to attend lessons. Classes start at half past eight in the morning to allow guardians to make preparations for their day-to-day activities.
Febie starts her day early in the morning with devotions. She then prepares her family for their daily activities. After her family leaves she goes to her garage and cottage which she turned into one big classroom for the children.
Febie was born in 1970 and she is the third born in her family. She grew up with the responsibility of looking after her young siblings. This engraved in her the principle of responsibility. She is married to Clever Chuma and the two are blessed with three children, Peace (15), Gift (9) and Nyasha (4).
Febie is a woman of many occupations. She is a committed Christian and a Pastor with the House of Prayer International. Her Christian journey can be traced back to her upbringing.
Her Christian life was inspired by Reverend Chomutiri from the Reformed Church. Her most inspiring verse in the Bible is Job 1 verse 1 which says, “In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.”
She believes that everyone knows evil things, but many fail to shun them. She encourages Christians to be like Job who persevered against the onslaught of the devil until God raised him up and opened the blessings to him.
Commenting on the current situation in the church, Febie says that she is happy with its spiritual growth. She has witnessed an increase in the number of people who are turning to God as their personal saviour. However she is concerned with the impact of HIV and AIDS on the church and the community as a whole.
AIDS has devastated our communities and worsened the plight of people who are already suffering from the economic hardships currently gripping the country.
“I have raised all my children according to Christian principles. My first born, Peace, a girl now attending secondary school always says to me that I bring my classroom mentality into the house, but that is who I am. Without discipline there is chaos and that is not good in the family,” she adds.
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