Unyetu’s white ants

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ON November 17 this year I graced Unyetu Primary School’s first ever prize-giving function.
I enrolled for Grade One at this school in 1972 and while I recall many gatherings, like the class end of year feast, religious festivals and annual shows, I don’t recall a prize-giving function.
The school headmaster, since last year, supported the hosting of a prize-giving ceremony.
Ex-students were, meanwhile, engaged in commendable community work with the local clinic.
To cut a long story short, Unyetu Old Students Association came into being through social media. We mobilised support for renovation of Unyetu Clinic and Unyetu Primary School.
This is how the idea and execution of a prize–giving day came about.
Guest of honour was president of the World Economic Congress, Dr Alexander Chisango, who is also co-chair of the Chikomba Development Association.
A tour of the school grounds highlighted old and new challenges; the same old buildings that had housed us and our teachers in the 1970s, slightly improved headmaster’s office, the old mango orchard and the ZESA ‘ruins’.
I was happy to miss a tour to the toilets, my experience here in the 1970s was nasty.
On the bright side were the priest’s solar-powered home, new Methodist church (doubles as school hall) and a leafy new orchard.
The headman, sub-chief Ranga, shared the oldest memories.
Unyetu was established in 1912 as Methodist-supported Gonyora Primary School.
Gonyora is a village dominated by autochthons of the area.
The name was contested by other surrounding villages.
Later it was renamed Unyetu after a local kopje.
Headman Ranga did Standards Two and Three at the school in 1949-50.
He had interesting anecdotes on his experiences during Unyetu’s then biting winters.
The Chair of the School Development Committee, Mai Mutomba, is very much concerned about the old infrastructure.
She is angry that ZESA infrastructure installed over 15 years ago but never connected is lying idle and decaying, with ZESA proffering excuse after excuse.
But both she and the headmaster acknowledge support from the local community in attending to some of the school’s needs. These supporters include but are not limited to Mbundure, Nguve and Mbavarira Trusts and more recently the Unyetu Old Students Association.
Thanks to such support and the hardworking teaching staff, Unyetu Primary School was, in Chikomba district rankings, number 82 in 2014, 20 in 2015 and five in 2016, phenomenal progress indeed!
The Guest of Honour was amazed by the gathering and determination to succeed.
He equated the hard work and determination to the Chinese, recalling his own experiences in the Asian giant when he visited an electric ‘chitutandove’ amusement park.
Recalling Unyetu’s reputation as a sports and choir powerhouse in the 1970s, he quoted from the scriptures, in his belief that Unyetu’s woes were over.
The community felt reborn and determined to showcase this collaboration as model for bottom up development.
Where Dr Chisango drew Chinese inspiration, I saw Korean hand and recalled an incident at university over J.C. Kumbirai’s 1980s poem Majuru.
“Ndinoshamiswa kwazvo nebasa ramajuru,
Twunhu twudukuduku kwazvo mukutarisa,
Twunotoonekwa waita zvokukotama
Nokuti twunhu twusina nematuro ose.
Asi chitarisaka mukuriro wechuru!
Hona kusvinyangwa-svinyangwa kwevhu rechuru
Tarisa kutsvenengerwa kwacho nomuvuzo!
Nokukurungirwa kwachozve nehurungudo!”
That is the first stanza of the late Kumbirai’s poem Majuru.
An argument broke out in our 1985 university class between Kumbirai and a student, Jasper, over which nationality the poet had in mind in writing the poem.
Jasper insisted the poem spoke to the industriousness of the Chinese while Kumbirai remained adamant he had the Koreans as his majuru, white ants.
The argument degenerated, much to our discomfort, into a slanging match over Chinese and Korean achievements.
We had scant information about the two.
The Chinese had contributed immensely to our liberation struggle and Chairman Mao Zedong had iconic status in the struggle narrative.
After independence, the giant National Sports Stadium stood as a monument to the friendship bond
Today China is the world’s second largest economy and only a matter of time before it scales the summit.
Backed by a large and rich land mass, world’s largest population and an industrious work ethic, the Chinese have staked a claim to Kumbirai’s Majuru.
And to add to that is the depth and breadth of the Chinese civilisation meaning recent greatness is built on an age-old tradition of greatness.
So naturally, for years, I had always thought that Kumbirai got it wrong in his interpretation of his own poem, Majuru.
If Kumbirai had Koreans in mind when he wrote Majuru, he clearly would have been referring to the pre-1945 unitary state. The depth and breadth of its civilisation rivals any ancient civilisation.
Koreans take pride in the well-documented invention of their own alphabhet, the Hangeul in 1443.
This development had been preceded by construction of the Gyeongbokgung, the iconic Joseon dynasty palace built in 1395. Interestingly both developments took place during the maturity period of our Great Zimbabwe civilisation.
I keep wondering where we lost our momentum.
At the end of the Second World War, there was nothing to materially, separate Korea, from the average African country except that the former had just attained ‘liberated’ status.
In 1965, as Ian Smith declared UDI and most African countries had become independent, South Korea was opening up, big time, to Foreign Direct Investment.
America’s KOMI and Motorola set up shop to manufacture transistors and semi-conductors respectively taking advantage of cheap labour rates in Korea.
In 1975, Korea Semiconductors became first Korean company to produce integrated circuits (ICs) and transistors.
In the village, and at school in Unyetu, we were listening to Literature Bureau book dramas or Government radio lessons from transistor radios probably carrying Korean intellectual signature.
Old Makombe, from our neighbouring village, had, however, by then, mastered the art of repairing broken down transistor radios!
The majuru could very well have been the Unyetu community.

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