Links between St Mary’s School Hampstead and the Mary Ward Primary School and Children’s Home in Zimbabwe

    Background, 2008-2009

    In 2008 the school launched a fundraising appeal to assist with the construction of a new hall, now our superb Mary Ward Hall. Our wonderfully generous and supportive parent body, including both current and past parents, together with a number of highly successful fundraising events, helped to raise over £241,000.

    Under HMRC’s Gift Aid scheme, the school was able to claim back the tax that had been paid on the gifted money and this amounted to around £39,700. The Trustees, agreed that this would be used to further the school’s charitable objects by benefiting children at the Mary Ward Primary School and the Mary Ward Children’s Home in Zimbabwe who are less fortunate than our children here at St Mary’s.

    Visit to Zimbabwe, May 2010

    Harvey Rands, Chair of Trustees, visited Zimbabwe (at no expense to the School) in May 2010, to discuss with the Sisters support for the Primary School and Children’s Home. He visited the Mary Ward Sisters and the Jesuits in Harare and institutions run by the Mary Ward Sisters (as the local province of the Congregation of Jesus is known) in the Kwekwe area: the Children’s Home and Pre-School in Amaveni and the Mary Ward Primary School in Mbizo, as well as a local state school.  The aim was to identify the existing resources and capacity of the Mary Ward Primary School and see what scope there might be to increase provision for the education of children from families not able to pay school fees. The educational needs and resources of the Mary Ward Children’s Home to pay fees for the education of the children in its care were also identified.

    (The photograph shown above was taken by Mr Rands during his visit...)

    Both the Children’s Home and the Primary School are situated in townships where unemployment is extremely high, particularly at Amaveni. At the time of Mr Rands’ visit there were 73 children in the Children’s Home, ranging in age from new born babies to young adults. Most of the children are orphans, many as a result of the HIV epidemic. The Children’s Home pays for the education of all children in its care and also runs the Mary Ward Pre-School at Amaveni, with 66 pupils aged 3-5. The Mary Ward Primary School at Mbizo provides education to around 1000 children from age 4 to 14. As is customary in Zimbabwe, education is not free and at the time of Mr Rands’ visit 13 children at the school had their fees paid by the Mary Ward Sisters.

    Spending the Gift Aid money

    Following a report on the visit to Zimbabwe, the Trustees decided that a proportion of the Gift Aid money should be put towards improving ICT and the internet connection at the Mary Ward Primary School which, as well as the obvious educational advantages for the pupils there, would have the benefit of enabling closer contact to be established with St Mary’s School, Hampstead. They decided that remaining money should be given to the Mary Ward Children’s Home at Amaveni, to pay the educational fees and costs of children who are cared for there. The sum given for ICT was £2,726 and for education was £36,964.

    St Mary’s ongoing support of children in Zimbabwe

    The Trustees also decided to pay the fees of more children whose families could not pay. St. Mary’s provides ongoing support by funding five financially disadvantaged children per year to attend the Mary Ward Primary School. The commitment will be extended beyond Primary School for so long as children in question continue their education or training and are also in need.

    St Mary’s is currently supporting 10 children in all. The children are carefully selected from those who would not otherwise be able to attend the school. This financial support by St Mary’s has increased by 30% the number of subsidised places the Mary Ward Sisters provide at the Primary School. It is an enduring and important link with St Mary’s, to the benefit of both schools. The annual cost to St Mary’s was around US$1985 (£1241) in 2010/11 and is expected to rise to $67,995 (£42,497) in 2026/27 at the current rate of educational fees. St Mary’s also continues to support the financing of the internet subscription for the Primary School and has to date donated £3,810 towards these costs.

    We hope to develop the links in the future by means of regular internet contact between pupils and possibly visits for short periods of St Mary’s staff to the Primary School.