Mabale Primary School

Mabale Primary School

Forging links between UK and Zimbabwe schoolchildren through Painted Dog Conservation (PDC).

The difference that can be made to the lives of school children not just in Zimbabwe but in the UK as well, through the establishment of strong links between their schools, is brilliantly exemplified by Bishop Gilpin School, Wimbledon and their support of Mabale Primary School near Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.

Mabale children

Mabale Primary School children

The link between Bishop Gilpin and Mabale schools first came about through the involvement of Kate Oppenheim, mother of one of Bishop Gilpin’s students.  She had originally become aware of and fallen in love with painted dogs in 1976 when she read Hugo van Lawick’s book “Solo, the story of an African Wild Dog”.  (Wild dogs are another name for painted dogs).  Kate then travelled to Zimbabwe in 1990, hoping to see painted dogs in the wild for herself.  On this trip, she was unlucky, and so, on her return, she contacted Greg Rasmussen, founder of the PDC project.

Since then she has travelled several times to Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Botswana and been fortunate to have had several painted dog sightings.  On these trips she also fell in love with Zimbabwe and many of its people, suffering such hardship, and determined that she would do all she could to help both the people and their wildlife.  After discussion with Greg Rasmussen, Kate decided to concentrate her efforts into helping Mabale School, a poor, rural school situated close to PDC’s centre in Hwange National Park, and already involved with PDC through their Bush Camp programme.

Mabale children helping to glaze

Mabale children helping to glaze

In 2009, Kate approached Mr Bob Cargill, then head of Bishop Gilpin, a Church of England school, to ask whether he would nominate Mabale School as the beneficiary of the school’s annual Lent project.  Since that time, and with the enthusiastic support of staff, pupils and parents, Bishop Gilpin’s involvement with Mabale School has gone from strength to strength.

Since 2009, Bishop Gilpin has raised more than £4,000 (school fairs, Year 6 activities, nearly new sales, donations); donated second-hand uniform and children’s clothing to Mabale students in January 2011; supplied hundreds of teaching materials for both children and teachers; enabled children from Mabale and Bishop Gilpin to develop friendships through a series of pen pal letters with children, initially in Year 6, and more recently in Year 4, and now in Year 5.  The school has welcomed senior representatives from PDC in 2010 and 2011 to whole-school assemblies to speak about Mabale, showing photographs of how the money has been spent and recounting stories about life for children in Zimbabwe.

In addition, Mabale is now connected to electricity, has new windows, doors, teaching materials, and thanks to further support gained for Mabale by PDC (in the form of sponsorship from Dutch associates) it now also has its own bore (water) hole and a garden providing the children with fresh vegetables.

Greg Rasmussen and Bob Carling

Privillege Sibanda, who attends the nearby Ndangababi Primary School

In 2010, the new headmaster of Bishop Gilpin, Mr Matt Ball, decided not only to continue the school’s involvement with Mabale Primary but also to undertake personally the sponsorship of a little girl, Privillege Sibanda, who attends the nearby Ndangababi Primary School.

Early in 2012, and with the support of PDC’s Education Co-ordinator, Wilton Nsimango, Bishop Gilpin extended their support of Mabale with a project called Mabale +, which now includes fundraising for Songwa Primary school too.  In April 2012, a sponsorship programme for children showing outstanding commitment to conservation and the region’s wildlife, was started and Bishop Gilpin families have, to date, sponsored 30 children from schools local to Hwange Park.

Mabale netball team

If your school is interested in becoming involved with PDC’s conservation efforts, which benefits not only local children but also their wildlife heritage, please do contact PDC UK at:

Bishop Gilpin’s pupils and families achieved such outstanding results by:

  • Do a Job for Mabale+: based on the old Bob A Job week, children commit to doing chores at home over the weekend for a couple of pounds, which they donate to Mabale+. (Raised £372.50, July ’12)
  • Year 6 Breakfast Sale: Year 6 organise breakfast for all the children, who pay to attend. (Raised £243 July ’12)
  • Summer Fair stall: all the children brought in a sock stuffed with sweets in return for coming to school without their uniforms (mufti day). The socks were sold at the summer fair. (Raised £448, June ’12)
  • Christmas Fair: same as above, but the children made crackers. (Raised £448, December ’11)
  • In 2009, the school organised a sponsored sports event, supported by Playball UK, (Raised £467)
  • The Lent Project*, where children are asked to give to a nominated charity. (Raised £630).