By Nhau Mangirazi
Villagers around Mushumbi primary school have found solace in a solar-powered borehole that now ‘protects’ pupils from crocodile attacks within Manyame river in Mbire district in Zimbabwe’s Mashonaland Central province.
This follows the establishment of a solar powered borehole as a renewable energy solution for effective water supplies since 2016.
Situated about 270 kilometres northeast of the capital Harare, the school is situated in the Zambezi valley, less than 40 kilometers from the Mozambican border post.
With temperatures averaging more than 34 degrees, installation of the solar-powered submersible borehole has been a relief for pupils, teachers and parents in the area.
Headmistress Tsitsidzashe Mhondiwa, said the solar-powered borehole was installed in 2016 through funds made available to Lower Guruve District Council (LGDC).
Previously, they endured costly rates from the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) averaging $3,000 monthly.
“It was becoming a financial burden to pay rates to Zinwa. Solar is naturally available and as a renewable (energy), it is free,” said Mhondiwa.
She said the borehole would enable them to embark on gardening projects.
‘We could not allow pupils to fetch water from nearby Manyame river that is crocodile infested and risky. We now have water all year round at the school. It was risky for young kids … to fetch water from open wells and the Manyame river,” she said.
Established in 1995, Mushumbi school has an enrolment of 1,300 pupils from Early Development Childhood, ECD, to Grade 7.
There are 28 teachers, the majority of them females.
School development committee chairperson, Belinda Karaza (39), said the solar-powered borehole was a welcome developmental and security measure for the school.
‘We cannot rely on water deposited with affluence from Angwa where gold miners use chemicals. Borehole water is smart, clean and safe water that is accessible,” she said.
Karaza said plans are afoot to install tap water in teachers houses.
‘We could not do this with water from an open river. This is a life-changing experience for teachers here,” said Karaza.
‘We want our school to embark on viable market gardening, poultry raring as part of income-generating projects to economically empower the school,” she said.
Sendekerai Mugwede (50), a local teacher and environment and clean energy advocate, said the solar-powered programmes should be the ‘in-thing’ in Lowveld areas such as Mbire, Chiredzi, Beitbridge and Hwange, among others.
“Zimbabwe is blessed with natural sunshine and Lowveld areas such as Mbire here is among these. We must take advantage of it. There should be good and sound policies for clean energy like solar that can be fed into our national grid,” said the Grade 7 teacher.
He challenged government to embrace clean energy policies in solar and windmill energy to curb hydro-power challenges.
‘We must invest more in natural sunshine for the national benefit,” he said.
According to the Renewable Energy Market Entry Study report by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2017, Zimbabwe has the best solar radiation.
The report notes that access to electricity in both rural and urban areas of Zimbabwe is low and potential for ‘renewable energy’ is ‘tremendous’