Visiting Lewisam primary school in Zimbabwe where I was once a student was humbling.
I was born in Uganda but because of the political turmoil, my family moved around a bit before settling in Zimbabwe.
Going back as an adult to the school where I had learned how to read in English (my favorite book was Dick and Jane: “run spot run”) made me excited but also sad. It was all so familiar because sadly not much had changed. I’d planned to meet and talk to the little boys and girls and tell them my story, how I’d once been a little girl at Lewisam before moving to the United States at 10, what I was doing now, but when I got there, the state of the school was heartbreaking.
The pool where I’d learned to swim was covered in mold, the classroom desks, chairs and chalkboards were old and outdated. I knew things were bad in Zimbabwe (inflation at the time was 1000%), but to see it in person, at a place I remembered as a joyful place, broke my heart.
What was once a fun place where I ran my first track competition, the place where for the first and only time ever in my life I got in trouble at school and was called into the principal’s office for leaving school early without telling anyone to go for a doctor’s appointment (they don’t play and the experience was seared into my head). It didn’t feel right to tell the kids to study hard and dream big dreams. I felt that the best gift I could give them was a book donation.
I have yet to go back but hopefully sometime soon I’ll be back to give back more and tell my story anyway to the teachers and children.
The familiar walk to the bus station
I can’t believe I used to be one of these little girls below. The uniforms and hats have not changed. The little girl in the front right with the sweater reminds me of myself so much.