By Br. Alfonce Kugwa
Mary Mount High School reopened its doors in 2016 after forced closure at the height of the liberation struggle in 1978. The school which closed as a primary school reopened as a high school with forms 1and 5 with 65 students. Now the school has forms 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 and the first group of upper 6 students set for examinations in 2017.
Mary Mount Primary School was closed at the peak of the liberation war of independence when staff including teachers, nuns and students were forced to join the liberation struggle in Mozambique. Sr. Gregor Dakudzwa LCBL and her community members then are some of those who were force-matched into Mozambique to join the war. The Church authorities saw it fit to close the school for fear of further exposing the lives of children and those working at the mission school.
Since then the school has been closed until Chinhoyi Diocese through Fr. Felix Mukaro decided to re-open the institution now as a high school in a bid to support the mission. According to Fr. Mukaro who is now the Development Coordinator for the Diocese, the school started by offering science subjects including, physics, chemistry, biology together with commercial and arts subjects.
Narrating the ordeal of Mary Mount School which lies some 280km from Harare in the North Eastern periphery of Zimbabwe in Rushing District, Fr. Mukaro said: “The school was closed as the staff and students were forced into joining the war of liberation in Mozambique. Even after independence, it was deemed dangerous to open the school as Renamo insurgents from Mozambique known as “Matsanga” kept wreaking havoc in the areas close to the mission station.”
Financial challenges, according to Fr. Mukaro, further dogged the situation as the mission did not have enough resources to revamp the existing but severely damaged infrastructure to accommodate students and staff.
“However, when the school reopened in 2016 under the leadership of Sr. Venencia Gasho LCBL as Acting Head, it started as a boarding school but accommodating locals from the vicinity as well. The intention of reopening the school was to support the system of the mission including local priests now staying there after the phasing out of white Jesuit missionaries,” Fr. Mukaro said.
The current head of Mary Mount High School is Mr. Farai Mujana supervising a staff compliment of 16 teachers and eight ancillary staff. Two priests reside at the mission including Fr. Armstrong Kaunga who took over as parish Priest from Fr. Mukaro after his assignment to be the Development Coordinator for the Diocese in 2016 and Paul Tigere as assistant priest. The school has so far completed a classroom block with two classrooms and a boys hostel that accommodates plus or minus 80 learners.
Before its closure Mary Mount Primary School produced influential citizens with the likes of Augustine Chihuri, the former Commissioner General of the Zimbabwe Republic Police.
According to Fr. Mukaro, the new administration of Chinhoyi Diocese is in the process of improving the education system for its people as there are plans to regularise the operation of St. Boniface Mission High School in Hurungwe by developing it into a boarding school. The diocese also has plans to take over Mutondwe High School which is currently under Pfura Rural District Council. On the other hand, the diocese has embarked on a drive to improve living conditions and livelihoods of its priests and religious.
“The diocese has embarked on improving conditions at parish stations by renovating presbyteries and convents so that religious and priests enjoy their work. Improving water reticulation through drilling of boreholes and introduction of small income generating projects determined by residence themselves is a priority for the diocese, said Fr. Mukaro highlighting the need to revamp Kangaure farm in Rushinga.
Kangaure farm was the first mission establishment in the diocese which provided courses such as home economics and mechanics among others. The mission was closed when Fr. Jerry Piper was murdered during the war. Its infrastructure was then vandalised by the locals and what only survived was the church roof which was removed and safely kept by a family who put it back when the situation stabilised.
“All the while, it has been operating as an outstation of St. Rita Rushinga. The diocese has started by fencing a 36-hectare farm to pave way for some agricultural initiatives to support it in self-reliance,” he said.