By James Muonwa l Mashonaland West Correspondent
AS part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) investment, Zimbabwe Platinum Mining (Zimplats) on Monday officially handed over two classroom blocks and ablution facilities to authorities at Turf Primary School in Mhondoro-Ngezi district.
The new infrastructure cost US$380 000, and would help ease accommodation woes at the learning centre, which has an enrollment of over 3 000 pupils and 100 teachers.
The investment, which forms part of Zimplats’ ongoing social performance programme, was handed over to Mhondoro-Ngezi Rural District Council, which operates the school.
Addressing guests at the official handover ceremony, Zimplats chief executive officer, Alex Mhembere, who was represented by corporate services head, Busi Chindove, said the platinum giant valued education which feeds into the nation’s human capital development, hence the investment.
“Perhaps, you might be wondering why we are talking about education when our business is that of producing ounces of platinum group metals. The answer lies in our purpose and values. The purpose of our existence is to create a better future for our stakeholders, who include the communities within our footprint. In doing so, we are guided by our values of respect, care and delivery.
“Our philosophy is that the greatest form of empowerment that one can ever benefit from is when they free up their minds through education, which enables them to come up with solutions to life’s challenges,” said Mhembere.
He underscored the need to create conducive conditions for both learners and teachers, especially in rural areas where schools are constrained by the unavailability of resources. This resonates with Zimplats’ purpose of creating a better future for all its stakeholders, including communities surrounding its operations in Ngezi and Selous.
He noted that Zimplats seeks to create social impact among stakeholders focusing on main pillars which include education and skills development, community well-being, local enterprise development, and infrastructure upgrade.
The first pillar— education and skills development— is an important catalyst to national growth and prosperity, he added.
“By creating conditions that are conducive to learning, like we have done here at Turf Primary School, we are helping students in remote parts of our country build a foundation that is stable and solid.”
At Turf Primary School, Zimplats has embarked on a phased upgrade project through the construction of additional classroom blocks, staff houses, and ablution facilities, in a bid to decongest the institution.
The latest project, which falls under Phase 3 of the school’s expansion programme, saw the building of two classroom blocks, each with four classes. Each unit has a capacity of 40 pupils and thus can accommodate a total of 320 learners.
James Kazonze, Turf Primary School headmaster, said the ballooning learner population was due to Turf town’s growth and that of its surrounding areas.
He said the new donated classrooms will go a long way in improving the teacher-pupil ratio from an average of 1:55 to 1:40, which could enhance the pass rate which currently stands at 75%.
Speaking at the handover event, Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Marian Chombo, hailed Zimplats for helping the council to upgrade the infrastructure at the institution.
She challenged other corporates and private investors to emulate the platinum group metals miner, whose interventions extend beyond education.
During the 2023 financial year, Zimplats injected US$4,7 million in corporate social investment programmes, up from US$3,4 million in 2022.
“They (Zimplats) deserve a pat on the back because they can never be any wiser choice than this in the sense that education is the most powerful investment in our children’s future and that of our nation,” said Chombo.
“The education sector is still suffering from lack of financial resources, inadequate equipment —no libraries, textbooks and computers— and poor working conditions for the teachers. The government alone will not be able to bring these schools to the desired levels without support from the private sector. This is why the Second Republic is placing so much emphasis on public-private sector partnerships, popularly known by the acronym PPPs,” said the minister.
Over the years, Zimplats has spent vast resources and implemented projects encompassing solar power systems, classrooms and staff quarters at Chingondo Secondary School and Tangwena Primary School and Secondary in the same district.
Both Chingondo and Tangwena schools were equipped with computer laboratories, complete with 20 desktop computers each, two HP printers each, and furniture. The projects also included sinking solar-powered boreholes to provide potable water to institutions and surrounding communities.
With 20 years of operations, Zimplats has managed to make a meaningful transformation of schools in the Mhondoro-Ngezi and Chegutu districts, among them David Guzuzu, Marshall Hartley, Rutara Saruwe and Wanganui.