Zimbabwe: New Site for Cyclone-Hit School?

The Roman Catholic Church (Diocese of Mutare) has engaged Government for an alternative site for St Charles Lwanga Secondary School which was destroyed by Cyclone Idai, leaving the institution isolated with no direct access by road.

The school was one of the first areas to be hit by landslides that destroyed infrastructure in Chimanimani, killing nearly 200 people.

Two learners, as well as a security guard, lost their lives when the landslide dislodged a huge rock which crashed into the school's dining hall and a dormitory where the learners were sleeping.

Diocese of Mutare education secretary Mr Lawrence Chibvuri said the school authorities had decided that the site was not safe for the learners, hence the decision to relocate to another site.

He said the boarding facilities had been suspended but the church had received authorisation from the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to continue running the day school.

"St Charles is isolated, there is no communication, no roads even to try and do any reconstruction. We would not have means of transporting material because it's sealed off. To get to the school, we have to get to Skyline and go down 3,5km on a very precarious road.

"We are in the process of engaging some experts in engineering and geology to assist us to substantiate our opinion that this place is not sustainable. However, as a pro-action, we have sent a request to Government through the District Administrator in Chimanimani and the Provincial Administrator for alternative sites which we will then build on in the medium to long term," he said.

He said once the church got land, the secondary school would be a priority adding that they wanted to build the new school in Chimanimani.

"We do not want to take St Charles out of Chimanimani, it must remain there. However, it has to be at an ideal site which has guaranteed security for our learners," he added.

He said the day school would continue serving about 87 pupils from the community but the 171 boarders would be accommodated in other Diocese of Mutare schools.

Out of the 11 teachers who were at the school, he said the Ministry of Education is expected leave about five to cater for the remaining children while the rest would be redeployed.

Mr Chibvuri said the Diocese of Mutare had engaged eight of its schools in the province to accommodate the learners but should the schools fail to absorb all of them, they would engage sister schools in the Archdiocese of Harare, since the majority of the learners were from Harare.

"We will contact the parents with the offer once it has been finalised. What we are trying to do is to reduce the burden on the part of the parents to start running around. But if a parent feels they are not happy with the available schools and they would like to find a vacancy elsewhere we will not stop them," he said.

Mr Chibvuri said the church was giving priority to the O-Level students and would ensure that they attended vacation school classes to enable them to catch up.

He said they were also providing psycho-social services to both the learners and parents in Mutare and Harare to help them cope with the traumatising experience.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development is conducting an assessment of all mines in Manicaland to evaluate the extent of damage inflicted by Cyclone Idai on equipment and possible impact on the sector's performance.

An initial assessment done by the ministry showed that Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) mmines in Marange and Chimanimani as well as Shawa Mine in Buhera suffered significant damage as pits were flooded and some equipment lost.

Provincial mining director Mr Omen Dube said the ministry had teams that were continuously assessing the situation to come up with strategies for the mines to resume operations.

"We have done the assessment on affected mines, especially those in Chimanimani, and we are still conducting assessments on small-scale mines as well," he said.

"Since the floods weakened the ground, it is not safe for the mines to resume operations without assessing the area in which they are operating. In Chimanimani, the teams have not had access to the mine to assess equipment damage, so the value of property that was damaged is yet to be determined."

Mr Dube said Redwing Mine was currently dewatering pits using pumps, while Dorowa Mine was working with ZESA to assess damage to electric poles and cables.

"Shawa Mine in Buhera, which was partially affected, has been experiencing power shortages as a result of damage to infrastructure," he said. "The road was also damaged and the conveyor belts were buried by mud, thus delaying the resumption of work."

Mr Dube said the ministry was working on establishing the number of small-scale miners who were affected by the floods.

The Rusitu Valley, which was hardest hit by the cyclone, is home to hundreds of artisanal miners, most of whom are not registered with the ministry.

This, Mr Dube said, is expected to create challenges in coming up with the exact number of miners that were affected as most will remain unaccounted for.

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