Illegal gold panners have a left trail blazing environmental destruction at Globe and Phoenix Primary School in the Midlands city of Kwekwe, Zimbabwe. Recently a classroom had its floors dug out by illegal gold panners in their quest for the yellow metal, which is of abundance at the school premises.
As a result of the availability of the precious mineral at the school environs, the school has had its football pitch completely destroyed in 2006, and rendering all school sports unattainable. The school now depends on hiring sporting grounds from nearby schools or using makeshift pitches for soccer and netball, which has negatively impacted on the pupils sporting attitudes.
“The School used to be a powerhouse in some sporting activities like athletics and soccer in the Midlands Province. When the illegal panners invaded the school premises, they completely rendered the sporting fields useless. Even the other school grounds are now being destroyed by these daring illegal gold diggers, posing a threat to pupils who might fall in the pits and galleys left by these panniers”, said a teacher, who refused to be identified from fear of reprisal from the marauding panners.
The makorokoza, as they are popularly known, have now moved into the school premises, pouncing on classroom blocks, resorting to digging out classroom floors, thereby destroying buildings, resulting in creating a negative learning atmosphere. Classroom number 12 has fallen a victim of having its floor dug out because panners believe it is sitting on gold. According to the teacher who uses the ‘The Gold Classroom’, it has its floor dug out twice this term.
“We would find large gaping holes when we open the classroom every morning, and this has significantly disrupted our learning programmes, as we could not conduct lessons in the classroom, even its walls were dug by the panners. We now close the windows and lock the doors; we have now filled the gaping holes with concrete to deter the gold diggers from digging out the floors. These people mess in the classrooms; you can even find empty beer bottles in the morning. We are operating under very difficult conditions, added the teacher.
The Deputy Headmaster of the school, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that the school had declared some areas within the school yard to be no go areas to the pupils in avoiding children from falling into deep pits and galleys.
“The school yard is now infested with pits and galleys which are now dangerous to our pupils, forcing us to declare no go areas, we got an enrolment of over 1000 pupils and the playground at the school is shrinking by the day. The school yard is swept every night by these panners in their search of gold, causing soil erosion. This school is now an environment disaster. Zimbabwe Republic Police(ZRP) used to guard this place, but they failed to control illegal gold panning at the school”, said the Deputy Headmaster.
The once thriving school garden and orchard has also fallen prey to illegal gold panning at the school. The garden is now dotted with deep pits. Even the makeshift playground has not been spared either. Vandalism of the sewer system is rife as illegal gold panners seek water to process their ore. The school fence has been completely pulled down.
“Globe and Phoenix Primary school should be relocated as illegal gold panning activities will continue threatening the survival of the school. The mining activities at and near the school will also continue to cause environment degradation at the school. Some prominent business people and politicians are products of the school; I urge them to form an association in order to help alleviate the situation, which is threatening to swallow the school, summed up Joseph Chirinda, a local prominent business person.