Beginnings of Holy Cross Vocational Training Centre (2018-2019)
The Strategic Plan (2017 – 2022) which was finalised in 2017 by Sr Margareth Nhariwa and her team found in its research that there was a great need to provide help to the youth of the Zano region of Masvingo (Wards 8 and 14), especially those youth who had left school and had not the resources to proceed to do further education or in fact the many young people who did not succeed in their studies and had no possibility of meaningful employment.
Hence on 6th March 2019, Sr Margareth Nhariwa and Sr Therese McManus began preliminary meetings with Mr Gwinji, Councillor of the area and Chief Chikwanda, Chief of the area to explain the project to them and to involve them as our local representatives. They came to survey the farm and see what we had to provide for the local youth. A few weeks later it was decided that we meet with the local authorities in the village to inform them of our plan for a Vocational Training Centre (VTC) and to get their advice on what is the best way to proceed. This meeting was a great success and people were happy and excited that some help was coming to the youth of the area. Mr Gwinji and Chief Chikwanda were asked to look for suitable students to join us in the new project. It was recommended by Mushagashe that we start with 20 students.
AGM Holy Cross Sisters
The Holy Cross Sisters themselves decided it would be good to make a beginning according to the Strategic Plan. For this purpose and to discuss many relevant issues relating to our Farm, Finances, the Commercial Centre and a VTC, the Sisters held an AGM meeting in Bondolfi on 8-9 March 2019. At this meeting, a VTC Committee of sisters was chosen to deal with issues relating to the setting up and implementation of the VTC. Once this committee was established, they began to work in earnest to begin the project. The committee chosen were: Sr Wadzanai Makonese, Sr Theresa Mafuta, Sr Judith Nhaimonesu, Sr Therese McManus.
The team first began by getting in touch with the relevant authorities – both political and educational. Since this project relates to youth, the team went to inform the Deputy Director of Youth, Mr Mbizo to explain our plans. Mrs Rugumi, District Head of Youth, Masvingo Region, was also consulted. These people were interested in visiting the farm to see what we had to offer the youth at present. They did a tour of the farm and assured us we could begin the implementation of a VTC with the resources we already had there.
From there, the team did research on which college we could attach ourselves as a satellite school until we are an independent registered college ourselves. An MOU had been begun with the Polytechnical College, Masvingo, who were willing to work with us. The VTC team also visited Mushagashe Agricultural College. After discussing with this college, the team felt they could respond better to our needs at present. We received a warm welcome there and we explained our project.
They welcomed us as a satellite school and we began to plan the way forward with Mushagashe College. This involved many meetings discussing the way forward including beginning an organic farm, how many students to begin with, finance and payment by students, finding a suitable syllabus, how long the course should be, getting a certificate at the end of the course, getting a suitable trainer.
Finally, Holy Cross VTC made an MOU with Mushagashe Agricultural College. This means we will be a satellite school of this college. They will provide us with a syllabus. To start off, we will do a six-month course with students including 4 areas which we can presently provide on the farm as a beginning; Horticulture, Animal Husbandry (Pigs and cattle) and Chickens. The course will be 20% theory and 80% practical. The theory that is taught daily (2 hours per day) will be put into practise during that day. The College will provide us with three handbooks: one in Business Management which is taught every day and is necessary for entrepreneurs like the students, one in Crop Production and the third one in Animal Husbandry.
Mushagashe also helped us to interview possible trainers and out of five that came for interview, one was chosen: Mr Bhebura Mutapati, a person with experience of training and working in this area for many years. The trainer will stay at the farm where he works and students will come in from the local villages daily.
On 26 April 2019, we set up interviews to choose students from the local villages for the course. Present for interviews were Karin from Germany, VTC Committee, Mr Gwinji (Councillor), and Chief Chikwanda. 11 people came for these interviews the first day.
It was decided by Mushagashe that we could begin to function as a school on 2 May 2019, the beginning of the second term. This date would be our opening day where guests would be invited to accompany us on this great endeavour, a small step but a mighty leap forward. We again met with Mushagashe to plan opening day of our school. We prepared the rules for students, our expectations, training certification, and how supervision of training will be done. We also were to inform students that the course will be for six months. We also needed to set in place a VTC Area Committee including Mr Gwinji, Holy Cross sisters, Principal of Mushagashe, and one of the headmen of the village. It was decided we meet once per term to assess progress. In addition, we need to prepare a document on Safety for Vulnerable Adults. A Holy Cross Sister has been assigned to do this.
Opening day was a great success. Present were Mr Mbizvo, Deputy Director of Youth; Mrs Rugumi, District Head of Youth, Masvingo Region; Mr Williams, Principal of Mushagashe; Councillor Gwinji, Ward 14; Headmen of the surrounding villages, Miss Karen, Holy Cross sisters, 8 new students for our VTC, Staff of Holy Cross Farm, Mr Mukumba, the previous owner of the Holy Cross farm. Each invited guest spoke words of appreciation and gratitude to the Holy Cross Sisters for coming to respond to a situation of need in this region. It was noted we are the first private organization who are willing to set up a VTC in this country. Mr Williams, Principal of Mushagashe, spoke to students of the importance of this course. He elaborated on the rules of Holy Cross VTC and explained to students how they will be accredited.
Sr Therese, on behalf of the Holy Cross Sisters spoke of the Holy Cross vision. She said the Holy Cross Sisters responded to God’s call to serve those in need. This is what brought them to the Zano region where they spent two years doing research on the needs of this area. She explained that the Holy Cross Sisters have a long history of responding to “the needs of the times”, as there we find the will of God. Our plan is to help the youth of the area who have not succeeded in ‘O’ Levels or have passed ‘O’ Levels and need skills to become self-reliant. The youth we hope to work with will be taught how to be entrepreneurs, how to be self-sufficient and move forward with their lives.
As a beginning, we have just finished a new classroom. We hope to expand in the near future into something greater. We offer courses in horticulture, Pigs, cattle and chickens. We look forward to establishing ourselves in this local area and working with the people.
After the speeches, everyone had a beautiful lunch and went home happily.
Organic Training Day
The following day, 3rd May, we invited Mr Otto Jaison to come for a second time to speak in practical terms about how to implement an organic programme on the farm. The first organic meeting was held 5 April 2019. Present were our new students, farm workers and a few sisters. Mr Jaison works with ITMOS Nutrology, an organic fertilizer company. He talked about Integrated Pest Management and gave examples of natural products that can be used for this. A fish pond attracts aphids away from crops, lemon solution, potato water, vegetable oil, garlic and onions are very good for getting rid of aphids. Locusts can be caught and ground and sprayed on plants. Oranges can be used for cutworms. He suggested we grow NAPIA grass. Also the NEEM tree acts as an insecticide. Desmodium puts nitrogen into the soil.
He went on to explain how to make home-made fertilizers. Egg shells can be crushed and used as fertilizers. Potassium is found in banana peels, beans put nitrogen into the soil, fireplace ash is a source of calcium and potassium which can be put into the field before planting. Bone meal can be made from bones. They are a source phosphorus and potassium. Chicken droppings can be used as a top dressing for soil.
He then went on to explain how to make a compost heap in stages. This was then done in practise in the irrigation field.
On Monday 6th May, classes began at 8am with assembly and prayer. The school timetable was sorted out and 8 students were present. The students are expected to pay a levy of $50 to cover the cost of food and hopefully the salary of the trainer. However, with the small number of students beginning our course, this money will only cover the cost of food. We have a timetable from 8am till 4pm. The first two hours are generally the theory lesson while the rest of the day is devoted to practical work related to this. Things began very well and students were serious and prepared for whatever was to come.