Putting Communities in the Driver's Seat

In a small farming town in Vungu District, a newly-built schoolhouse has come to mean much more than expanded learning opportunities for local children. For proud adults in the town, it is the tangible result of what happens when they come together to tackle problems and drive positive change in their community.

There was excitement in the air as everyone crowded around the new schoolhouse for the opening ceremony. Children old enough to start school whispered among themselves, imagining what their new classrooms would be like when the school year started. Parents listened intently to the opening address, proud of the school they had built for their children.

The school project in Vungu District was borne from a consultative process facilitated by IOM Zimbabwe. Community members, local traditional leaders and government representatives came together and made improving access to education through construction of a new school, one of their biggest priorities. They shared their experiences, set a timeline and decided next steps, as IOM staff listened in to learn how they could best support the community.

Ultimately, with IOM’s help, the community sourced local materials, molded bricks and used them to begin construction. But as the rainy season approached, many of the community members had to stop work on the school to farm their land. It became clear that the original timeline was unrealistic.

IOM staff encouraged the community to hold a meeting to discuss the delay, and at the gathering, worked with participants to come up with a solution. A plan was hatched that community members would work with IOM to recruit young people in the town to continue work on the schoolroom, enabling farmers to tend to their crops. Soon after, young people were engaged in the project and a new schedule was created with construction to be completed ahead of the next school year.

"Through the community consultation approach, including women, children, and the elderly, residents of this town have become active agents of their own change," notes an IOM project assistant. “They have even gone on to help neighboring communities implement similar projects."

Learning from the school construction project, the mission and the community now account for seasonal changes in project timelines, which enables resources to be used more effectively.