When my children were in junior school, they came back one day very excited, wanting to sponsor a child on the World Vision Programme. For one dollar a day it is possible to change someone’s young life, they assured me. However, I have always wondered how much of the money raised goes into administration. I asked my oldest brother, Richard Knottenbelt, himself a teacher in Zimbabwe, if he knew of any organisation in Zimbabwe that he would recommend. He knew of KGVI, a well-established school, and suggested we might like to look at that.”
“This was in 2005. I learned that this was a school for children with disabilities. I can’t quite remember how it was decided or how many children we were able to support. It immediately felt right, knowing that every amount donated would go straight to the purpose of educating for a better life. Education is a useful key to open doors,” says Elayne.
For the past 20 years, KGVI has been offering a programme that if any of you were me, you would call it “Phenomenal” simply because of its nature and intent. It is that kind of a programme that exists to help, shape, create, inspire, and give opportunities to persons with disabilities. It is the bursary programme.
The bursary programme was initially started in 2002. At this time, a few organisations were able to pay fees for some of our students. In the early days three organisations were mainly involved being the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Lilliane Fonds and Jairos Jiri and they were paying fees for some of the boarder students until around 2011. Jairos Jiri started by sponsoring twelve students and some of the familiar names who were sponsored first are Marvelous Mbulo, Nyasha Mharakurwa, Pharis Mashava, Sonia Chidakwa and many others. By 2011 most of these organisations were struggling themselves and this form of support fell away. KGVI had to really work hard to bring in more individual donors to cover the gap left by the big organisations. Some of our ealiest individuals who came on board to help were Elayne and Sallie and John, Walter and Al, there are so many! It is amazing that our bursary donors come from all over world – Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, the US, the UK and even the Norfolk Islands!
KGVI has always made it clear that sponsorship money goes direct to the students with no admin or other hidden costs. Individual donors send money under the Bursary programme and then KGVI selects the students they know needed this kind of assistance and would benefit most.
“We had multiple criteria when selecting the students to be on bursary. Firstly they have to come from families that really cannot afford to send them to school, so very often orphans. Then we look at children who are outstanding in some way or show potential; it might be in academic or vocational subjects, it might be in sport or it might be a good leader or artist or performer or just someone we know will benefit physically from being at KGVI. These criteria helped us to identify the children that would benefit and grow most from this financial assistance,” said Inez Hussey who was present and in charge from its inception.
Each child on a bursary writes a report at the end of term and selects a photograph of themselves from the term’s activities. We now have a Bursary Club where the children are encouraged to ‘give back’. They arrange activities for other children at KGVI and even collect gifts and clothes to give to needy children in other schools. Once they went as a Club to pick up rubbish in the streets of Bulawayo. We want the children to understand the importance of helping others and not just taking for yourself!
Since 2002, there has been overwhelming support by individuals and organisations who came all in the spirit of helping our children. Therefore, to better explain how the 20-year-old bursary programme became such a life changing partnership of different people, some of the pioneer donors will have to explain their journey.
Brenda who has been one of our bursary donors at KGVI said that she was inspired to start giving financial assistance by the fact that she also received financial assistance when was a child.
“I would like to give hope and a good education to the children. When I was young, others gave me a chance and I am now able to offer my help to others,”.
Through the help of many other donors who have contributed part of their personal earnings to the bursary programme at KGVI, so many students have gone on to achieve a great deal of success because of that opportunity.
Nyasha Mharakurwa, a well-known International Wheelchair Tennis Player is one of the students who was helped by KGVI with a bursary. Nyasha said that he got his first sports wheelchair at KGVI after he had made an appeal and one of the bursary donors who was also paying for his fees paid for the wheelchair.
“I was able to play basketball with a proper wheelchair and later on I used it for tennis because they are similar in many ways. So, my sporting career got a boost from having the right equipment,”
Mharakurwa went on to be ranked number 39 in the world wheelchair tennis rankings at some point. He has won many international awards such as 2012 ANSA Sportsman of the year (Wheelchair tennis). He also represented Zimbabwe at the London Paralympics in 2012. Presently he works in Geneva with the International Paralympic Association (check this out)
So many students on the bursary programme have different stories to tell, and most of those stories have touching backgrounds. The Bursary programme has even helped three students from one family.
The Tekede Family has three of their children deaf. But because it is a big family of four and the three needed special education from King George, they struggled to manage with school fees at times for all the children.
“I would come to school late whenever my family could not raise fees for me. The bursary helped my family to focus on some other needs at home such as paying bills, food and ensure that we had a stable life at home,” said Tapiwa Tekede, our former deaf student who is now an apprentice in photography, videography and computer maintenance here at KGVI.
Tapiwa’s sister Paidashe Tekede thanked the donors for taking part of their incomes and time to help families that need it the most. “Thank you to the donors. Your support makes a big difference to the children here.
The bursary donor funding at times can go beyond just helping the students with educational support, rather, it can also be used for the well-being of that student in their everyday needs. Marvelous Mbulo, who was one of the bursary beneficiaries said that at some point in his life, he had to stay at KGVI during the holidays when things were not good at home.
“The bursary money once assisted me when I could not go home because of issues and I stayed at King George. It was of utmost assistance,” said Marvelous. He is now a family man who mastered the art of independent living beyond expectations.
To that effect, King George has enlisted different kinds of students for bursary. Elayne even said that the outcome of this programme has exceeded their expectations and it is important to support any student, despite their academic capability.
“The outcomes have more than exceeded my expectations. I will support any student. It may not be someone with the greatest academic potential, it may be someone who needs to be there to make life possible and happier. I know that whatever I send is hugely appreciated and always acknowledged.
“I am always amazed at how much my donation achieves, confirming that it is spent for best student outcomes. There have been such challenging times and I have always indicated that it must go to what is needed, this may be food for the table. I am sure there is so much else that is donated and I really admire those that donate their time,” said Elayne.
The bursary programme has created different feelings and experiences both for those who take part in it and those who benefitted from it. This section could not cover every donor and student who benefitted from the program, because there are far too many but the few who were present managed to describe the effect which is estimated to be reaching everyone.
The Current Situation
The Bursary programme currently is sponsoring 22 students who are all housed at the Centre. It takes over USD$500 to pay for one student per term in the bursary programme.
One of the students who started benefitting from the programme since 2014, Methembe Mkandla said that he started getting his fees paid after KGVI noticed that his family could not afford to pay even half of the fees. “My family could not pay fees, just the grocery that we pay at school. So for that opportunity, I would like to say thank you to the donors, and to the KGVI staff for noticing my situation and offering me a chance to education,” wrote Methembe. He is now doing his form 1.
Here is another testimony from one of the students that you have anonymously helped, but still changed her life and well-being. Her name is Ntombifuthi and she is doing her form-three.
“I started learning at KGVI when I was in grade 4. During that time, I was a day-scholar and it was very difficult for me to come to school every day and to find bus-fare to and from school. The reason I was a day-scholar is because my family could not afford the boarding fees. I still faced different challenges at home, such as homework and getting enough studying time.
“In grade 6, I got a bursary from KGVI and immediately became a boarder. This helped me and my family a lot because I was finally at ease. I gained a lot of skills in boarding, especially independent living skills such as cooking, cleaning and washing. “I would like to say that I will forever stay grateful to KGVI and to our donors for supporting us here,” said Ntombifuthi Ndlovu.
Therefore, we as KGVI would like to give thanks to everyone who has been involved with us during the happy times, and the sad times. To us, you are all family and you have made lots of differences in the lives of children that most of you do not even know the names of.
We will always remain grateful and looking forward to having you around for as long as you wish.