The Nhimbe Magaya Preschool is a project inspired by Karen Madsen-Barton.
It began through a connection to the world of Zimbabwean music, in particular
Dumisani Maraire who brought Shona music to the west coast of North America.
After he passed on, Jaiaen Beck of Ancient Ways traveled to Zimbabwe
and with the village headman, Cosmos Magaya, began a development and sustainability
project to serve 7 villages in a rural community. Karen asked if they
had any interest in a school for their 3 to 6 year olds and the answer was
a resounding YES.
In 2001 the parents of the Oregon Sundborn Children's
House under the guidance of Karen, the Director, funded the construction
of a school building in Mhondoro. For these villages, it is the first
indigenous preschool and enjoys widespread community support.
Beck, Karen has been able to advise the village how to create a simple
Montessori environment. The school was built with low windows so that
the children can look out, a feature never before considered. They have
created a garden that the children help to take care of. The teachers have
a basic understanding that children should be encouraged to do what they
can for themselves.
Every year, Sundborn School has sent educational materials
to the school that will fit in Jaiaen's suitcase as this is the only
sure way to transport goods to this rural region. Though not specific
Montessori materials, they are chosen carefully to allow the children to
explore concrete activities individually. They have found great joy in doing
puzzles, bead stringing, simple yarn sewing and building with wooden blocks.
The Nhimbe School enrollment has grown. The success of the school management
along with the support and enthusiasm of donors stimulates an open door
policy. Cosmas and Jaiaen decide to welcome neighboring villages into the
Nhimbe preschool. There are now 140 children attending, expanding to a morning
and afternoon program, 5 days a week. Due to the deprivation of family food
sources, the diet for the children is varied to include beans, dried fish,
rice and porridge. Local cooperatives are started to help support the preschool
cooks, providing fresh peanut butter and buns. Fruits and vegetables are
purchased to support the orchard and garden produce harvest.
Cosmas Magaya is a village head man of the Magaya village, which is one of
the 7 villages in this Mhondoro region. He acts as the Project Director for
the entire project which supports many aspects of community development for
the 7 villages. Even as political conditions in the country decline, the Nhimbe
school community continues to thrive, partly because it is held carefully by
the nurturing of the entire project. A nurse, village health worker, and dispensary
support any basic health concern that arises, often inspiring the offering
of workshops for the families in hygiene and sanitation as they deal with the
common problems of life in rural Africa throughout the year. The Community
Center grounds are kept up and the library expanded with the children in mind.
The spirit of the people is strong and optimistic. Held up as an example of
a model preschool by the government education minister, its graduates excel
in the government elementary school. Due to the successes, the model provided
by the preschool and the project in general has been utilized to begin another
project and preschool in another region of Zimbabwe , directed by Fradreck
This program has the potential to develop quickly into a model school
for rural Africa. It is ready for a significant increase in strategic
and daily leadership as well as funding for teacher training, teacher salaries,
classroom materials and related development.
The Nhimbe School offers an
organic, sound foundation, built on the commitment of the local people
and is being held up as a model preschool by the government education minister.