It was nothing like he had experienced before. “Huya uone tirikubhigwa nevarungu! (We are getting thunbs up from white people),” a grade one pupil at Hatcliffe 3 Primary School exclaimed while running to meet his colleagues who were just arriving on the scene.
By Munyaradzi Madzokere
He had received a fist pump from the best all-rounder in World T20 cricketer Glen Maxwell, but to young Kupakwashe, Maxwell was just another white man.
Away from their T20 tri-series against hosts Zimbabwe and Pakistan, the Australia cricket team took a day off to spend time with kids in the poverty-stricken community of Hatcliffe Extension.
A Brisbane-based charity organisation, Grassroots Cricket, that uses cricket to better the education of children in underprivileged communities, had invited the Aussies, through their Cricket4Hope initiative.
The Aussies crashed into an ongoing Shona mid-year exam where kids were crammed in a single room, some sitting on the floor, to interact with the kids. They later conducted a coaching clinic, had fun and games, before donating equipment and distributing some “eats”.
What was meant to be an hour’s visit was three hours in the end and the global cricket superstars would not have enough of the kids.
“It’s a really nice experience. It makes us appreciate what we have at home and what is more amazing is to see these kids so happy playing cricket in the dirt with minimal gear,” Aussies vice-captain Alex Carey said during the visit.
“I can see future stars coming from this community. The kids have been learning very fast, some of the shots they have been playing, the hand high skills have been fantastic, the bowling is great, so I have got no doubt that some of these kids will grow up to be professional cricketers,” Carey added.
The lives of some of the pupils might never be the same again after the experience with the Australian team.
“These people did a great thing for us. We were not expecting this. I wish the Lord would help them. They made everyone here happy. This has inspired me to want to play cricket as a professional when I grow up. I want to play in Australia, Europe and also play for Zimbabwe,”13-year-old Anesu Makwachana, who lives with his unemployed grandmother in squalid conditions, said.
“I want to go far with cricket and be able to look after my family and improve our standard of living. I also want to help this school because I am not happy to see it in this state. It’s my hope to see better classrooms built here and also for us to have adequate furniture to use because a lot of us learn sitting on the floor,” a Grade Seven female pupil, Tatenda Chakuchichi, also told the Sports Hub.
Hatcliffe Primary 3 — a satellite school — caters for more than 800 children from the highly-populated community despite its lack of classrooms, furniture, toilets and textbooks, among other basic amenities.
The headmaster of the school, Trevor Kanyongo, expressed hope that the visit by the Aussie visit would serve as a game-changer for the school and the pupils.
“I hope this visit is a game-changer for us, a chance to tell our story so that we can get help. “We are just a community school trying to provide the best education for these kids under difficult conditions. Our infrastructure is not up to standard, it’s not a conducive learning environment. Imagine a school of 800 pupils using only four squatting holes as toilets. We are also in dire need of furniture and textbooks,” he said.
“Sport has helped us reduce absenteeism and we have seen a big change of late. We have cricket and other sports here and the potential is in abundance here,” Kanyongo added.
Hatcliffe 3 Primary School has just eight classrooms with a teacher to pupil ratio of 1 to 50.
Touched by the plight of the children, the Australia cricket team bought 550 pens, 500 pieces of chalk, 250 exercise books, 72 clipboards, soccer and rugby balls and 100 textbooks to be delivered to Hatcliffe 3 Primary School.
Not enough, but this they bought using part of their prize money for finishing runners-up in the tri-series after losing to Pakistan in last Sunday’s final.
Hatcliffe Primary School pupils came in full voice to support Australia in the final as a way to show gratitude.
“For most of the kids, it was their first time interacting with professional cricket players. And now they are inspired to play cricket. Going forward, the plan is to pursue corporates to help put up one practice wicket at the school,” Young Achievement Sports for Development (YASD) communications officer Joe Kaseka said.
YASD are Grassroots Cricket implementing partners in Zimbabwe.
“We would also like to see this school compete with other schools, which is currently not the case since it’s an informal school. There is talent here but as is the case with marginalised communities, no one comes down to identify the talent, so what we want is to put them in the spotlight,” he said.
And with a number of international media agencies running the story, Hatcliffe 3 Primary was indeed in the spotlight.