Text and photos: Teresa Grøtan
“Those were the tough years …,” says Moyo, and looks down at the table as he talks about his childhood in the village of Dopota north of Bulawayo in south-western Zimbabwe.
He grew up with a family of 26 – grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, siblings, nephews and nieces – next door to Dopota primary school.
The 22-year-old with the bright smile is now in the second year of a four-year BSc in business studies at Lupane State University, with a grant funded by the Kavli Trust.
“Like most of the families in the area, we were dependent on farming and being able to sell what we produced,” he explains when asked why his childhood was hard.
“But the rains were unstable, with drought every year. We got no breakfast at home from 2002 to 2008. At least we were fed at school. None of the local kids wanted to go, but we went because they gave us lunch.”
That provision was initiated by Norway’s Sabona organisation, which is now funding Moyo’s university studies with support from the Kavli Trust.
Moyo was one of the fortunate children who met its founder, Ynghild Solholm, when she arrived in his village as a teaching volunteer in 1999. She soon understood that it was little help to pay for school fees and uniforms if the children were so hungry that they fainted in the classroom.
Now Moyo sits in the room he rents from a family in Morningside on the outskirts of Bulawayo, furnished with a big bed, a wardrobe and a round table with four chairs. A spare tire lies in one corner, a single light bulb dangles from ceiling, and a small stove stands with some dirty pots, cooking implements and food on a shelf next to the broken fridge.
But Moyo says that he is not there much, except to eat and sleep. He recalls that he was one of the brightest pupils at the Dopota school, and that Solholm liked him.
“Sabona did a lot in our local community. It gave us school uniforms, even shoes and sun hats, paid the fees and fed us. It even held parties and gave us Christmas presents. We had a lot of fun.”
“I’m the first in my family to complete upper secondary school and continue to university,” says Moyo. He stuck to it, while many contemporaries quit after primary school. They no longer got fed.
“My siblings are now following in my footsteps,” he adds. Sabona has supported him the whole way, and now also helping other family members.
Moyo’s father is among the one-third of Zimbabwe’s population who have emigrated to seek a better life. He sends some money home, but his son knows that life is difficult for him.
“Parents always want to hide how they are actually doing from their children. Father says things are going well, but I visited him last year and saw how he toils.
“I miss him all the time. But I need to focus. All I can do is get my degree and make a better life for myself, so I might one day have my own company. And father will run it.”
Moyo is pleased with room he rents. A small front garden contains a few trees and plants, while the veranda has lounge furniture upholstered in velour. And he has access to a tap at the rear where he can get water and wash clothes in a tub.
Coming to town as a student has been a bit of an adventure, he says. “I’ve met many different people with all sorts of ambitions. I’ve learnt so much here. Since I live alone, I’ve got to look after myself and be sensible with my money.”
Although Moyo reports that he gets good grades, he is worried about the future and says that finding a job in Zimbabwe is impossible. The only chance available to him is to create his own employment – which will not be easy, either. So he aims to travel to South Africa.
After seeking inspiration in that country, which is “10 steps ahead of us technologically”, he intends to return to his homeland to found a company.
One enterprise Moyo frequently visits is the internet cafe in town with its fast and stable connection – unlike the library, where demand for web access and computers is usually high.
“I’m doing business studies to give something back to my local community. It raised me. Without its help, I wouldn’t have been here.:
Visit the village where Moyo grew up in our next article from Zimbabwe.
- Sabona is a Norwegian organisation which works on health, education, agriculture, culture and commerce in Zimbabwe.
- The Kavli Trust has contributed since 2014 to Sabona’s fund for upper secondary, vocational and higher education grants.
- General manager Inger Elise Iversen and Teresa Grøtan from the trust visited Zimbabwe in March 2016 to learn more about the organisation’s work.
Read more about Sabona (in Norwegian only).