DEVELOPMENT partners must build-back better modern infrastructure that speaks to present day Zimbabwe when they intervene to assist in areas affected by Cyclone Idai, Manicaland Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Dr Ellen Gwaradzimba has said.
She said that it was not the Government's responsibility alone to build and develop the country because the Government comprised and represented the masses, State entities and private companies that must work together.
Dr Gwaradzimba said this in her remarks while introducing Energy and Power Development Minister Zhemu Soda, who was the guest of honour at the official handover of a two room classroom block at Singizi Satellite Secondary School in Chipinge.
The event was attended by scores of people among them Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development Deputy Minister Raymore Machingura, officials from Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Chipinge Rural District Council, residents and their traditional leaders.
The school is one of many infrastructures that were destroyed by Cyclone Idai, leaving teachers and students without shelter. Petrotrade, which specialises in fuel retailing and falls under the Ministry of Energy and Power Development, built the now electrified classroom block at a cost of over US$160 000.
Following the Cyclone Idai disaster, students and teachers at the school had been using tiny makeshift classrooms made from roughly processed timbers and old roofing sheets blown away from the old blocks that were destroyed by gusty winds and strong rains.
Cyclone Idai struck Zimbabwe in March 2019, affecting over 270 000 people. The storm and subsequent flooding and landslides left 340 people dead and many others missing. Agriculture, schools and infrastructure all suffered heavy impacts; many people lost their homes.
Dr Gwaradzimba said Zimbabweans, the corporate world, development partners and the international community all showed unity of purpose and rallied behind the Government in providing emergency services and other forms of assistance during and after the horrible disaster.
"We have seen a building that meets modern standards. As a Government, we are saying we want to modernise our country, we are also moving towards urbanisation, industrialisation and innovation.
"We are also guided by the theme, building back better. If you look back at the building that was destroyed compared to the new one, you realize that we are building back better, including roads and bridges.
"I challenged Petrotrade, during the private briefing and told them that as the Minister of State for Manicaland Province, I am not going to allow poor infrastructure; such as what I see over there (ram shakable Blair toilets).
"Those things are ancient; they no longer belong to the modern day Zimbabwe. Pit latrines and Blair toilets. Not anymore.
"So, the next assignment that I am giving you (Petrotrade) is to sink bore holes so that there is water and we can have proper toilets with flush systems," the minister said.
The minister said it was critical to expose young children to modern day technology and infrastructure, which is crucial for a health and progressive society.
"That is my wish for the people of Manicaland, so that we do not continue to expose ourselves to deplorable things that we were subjected to when we were seen as second class citizens who do not deserve better," he said.
She said during colonial rule, Africans were not allowed access to good education and a bottle neck system was used to reduce the number of educated blacks, an experience she described as dehumanizing and part of the reasons indigenous people took up arms to fight the white colonial settlers.
Dr Gwaradzimba also commended the people of Singizi community, in Chipinge Central, for giving equal opportunity to education for both the boy and girl child after learning that the satellite school's enrolment comprised 83 female and 82 male students.
Further, the minister also hailed the Government for the tremendous effort and resources invested towards ensuring the provision of good quality education to everyone.
She said that she will not tolerate the closure of schools in the province at any time of the year, except during periods of disaster, so that both the young and the old can receive education.
In his speech Minister Zhemu said the intervention by Petrotrade following the appeal by President Mnangagwa, for all cooperating partners to give a hand after Cyclone Idai struck the province, killing hundreds of people, injuring scores others and destroying infrastructure; including schools and houses.
"His Excellency made an appeal to corporates and others to participate in repairs and restore infrastructure after March 29, 2020 Cyclone Idai, which caused a lot of suffering and destruction of the country.
"The official handover of this classroom block is evidence that our corporates are sensitive to the plight of our communities, especially when faced with disasters.
"It shows how they value the importance of our children and the need to provide a conducive environment for learning Cyclone Idai experiences," Minister said.