Families in Zimbabwe have been severely affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the consequent breakdown of family structures as well as huge socio-economic upheaval. The state education system is grossly overburdened. Cross Over aims to meet the educational need of poor communities where family units are under extreme pressure. Our approach to education allows students to remain with their (extended) families whilst at the same time providing emotional support and counselling together with a practical and relevant education. Through the work of our mentors we reach out not only to the students, but also to their families and communities.
The students are in "school" with us 4 days a week, 8 hours a day. With love, faith and patience we instil in them self-confidence and the belief that they can reach beyond what they have known all of their lives. In a Cross Over group they find a nurturing and stimulating learning environment where they start to develop character, knowledge and skills.
At school I was one of 50 students in a class. The teacher did not notice that I could not keep up. Every year I failed my exams but they moved me to the next grade. When I was 12 I asked if I could come to Cross Over. And I am happy here. The mentors here really teach us things and we can ask questions. Now I can read and write and speak English.
Through home visits our mentors are building relationships with the parents or care-givers of all students, supporting them in their parenting and challenging them where situations of abuse or neglect are developing. When necessary the familier are helped through the local church with additional support enabling them to solve some of their structural problems in a sustainable way.
I am a girl of 13 and I never went to school. Well, I went once but I didn't like it so I never went again and my aunt and uncle never made me. Now I am going to Cross Over ad I am slowly learning to read and write. It was hard at first, going to school. I did not like getting up early every morning and having to wash. My mentor made me wash my clothes at school. One day she mended my torn dress so the other children wouldn't laugh at me. Another day she was so cross with me for not having washed that she sent me home. That doesn't happen anymore. I now know to keep myself clean. My uncle is happy. He says I am becoming a good person.
Cross Over’s mentor programme provides young people from the community with training, empowerment and a career opportunity they would otherwise not receive. We work with individuals passionate about teaching and uplifting their communities, but without an official teaching qualification. Our mentor programme gives them the opportunity to develop their teaching skills and the resources to provide quality education within their own community. This enables the community to take responsibility and initiative for their children’s education.
My life is transformed during my time at Cross Over. I was a youth without much of a purpose in life. I also failed my public exams. But I have become a young man who has a vision and dream to see many young people reached and touched by Christ through "informal" education. Life might seem hopeless and can be so discouraging, but I have seen worse situations being turned to great testimonies of young people being hopeful again and desiring to change their situations. Even when it seems there is no hope, there is always hope.
One of our long term aims is to be able to engage with communities to think differently about education, and then to empower them to start their own educational initiatives. We hope to do this through providing mentor training and a ‘start-up trunk’ containing the full curriculum resource pack for any one year together with the basic educational materials a mentor would require to teach 12 students. In this way a community can get going with the real essentials of education without having to wait until they can afford expensive infrastructure.
The place where I live is always noisy and crowded. At any time of day you will find lots of people just doing whatever because jobs are so short and hard to get. You should see what some of them get up to! At my best friend’s house there are 14 people living in 2 rooms! At least in my house there are only 8 of us. People here do not think school is very important. They say it doesn’t make any difference. Even if you can read you still won’t be anything and being able to add up money doesn’t put it in your pocket! Our mothers try to keep our homes clean but it is hard when the water runs out and the roads between are broken and muddy and firewood is hard to come by. My mum is happy that I am learning to keep things clean and to help her. Since I started going to Cross Over I have seen how nice it is to have a clean place to be in. Our Cross Over room is so bright and clean. There are bright pictures on the walls and interesting things to play with. We are learning how to look after the room and the toys by keeping it clean and by putting things away in the right place. Sometimes we forget!