AFTER realising that several students were attending class without shoes, with some walking long distances, Fundile Nkala (26), then a teacher at Sukasihambe Primary School in Filabusi, Matabeleland South, came up with an initiative to provide school shoes, clothes and uniforms to vulnerable learners three years ago.
As a teacher in rural areas since October 2020, Nkala (pictured) has interacted with some less privileged children from the onset of her career and this emboldened the philanthropic spirit in her. She is a teacher, humanitarian, counsellor and mental health advocate who has a deep-seated passion for children and the less privileged in society.
Her fondness for the welfare of young children, women and vulnerable members of society has resulted in Accountability Lab Zimbabwe (AL Zimbabwe) honouring her as an integrity icon.
AL Zimbabwe holds the annual event to recognise honest public servants who show integrity in their job.
The icons are selected by their communities and recognised by the organisation for their outstanding work. She was among five icons honoured by the organisation at a colourful ceremony in Harare on 24 February.
Now a teacher at Sigola Primary School in Matabeleland South’s Umzingwane district, Nkala traces her philanthropic work as a public servant to her first station in Filabusi.
“I partnered with Generation Empowerment Trust (GET) to assist school children, and through a social media campaign, we have managed to raise shoes and uniforms. In the shoe drive, I was influenced by learners who were walking very long distances without shoes,” said Nkala.
“Some of the children were very young and I thought it would be a good idea to make them a bit more comfortable. Through the shoe drive, we have also managed to branch out and also donate shoes to the community at Ngozi Mine [unplanned settlement] in Bulawayo.
“My values are simple, one should show a little bit of kindness because the world is already cruel enough and people are going through a lot. What we do can either make or break a person,” she said.
Nkala has also been sourcing clothes for homeless children of school-going age at the Ngozi Mine unplanned settlement on the periphery of a dumpsite in Bulawayo, home to several homeless people.
To support this work, Nkala has been volunteering with various other community-based organisations.
“Besides my professional job, I volunteer with a number of organisations such as Mothers of Special Heroes (Mosh) and Generation Empowerment Trust, in order to get assistance on my projects, which include: assisting marginalised communities and bridging the gap between the urban and rural educational systems,” she says.
“I am also an advocate for mental health. The aim is to demystify it. Under this programme I am involved in counselling initiatives for my students and community members. “With Mosh, I provide support to mothers through counselling, as well as material such as pampers,” she says. Nkala believes she is honest and has demonstrated it by carrying out duties as mandated without supervision.
“These include being on time, doing right things; not because someone is watching, but because it is the right thing to do,” she says.
Nkala says she treats people with decency; and cites her school shoe drive as an example of ensuring the dignity of all persons.
“Poverty makes people vulnerable, especially young people who are vulnerable to bullying because of their appearance and background. The school shoe drives offers not only school shoes but uniforms, to give even marginalised masse dignity. I have advocated for kindness, respect despite age, background, gender or sexual orientation,” she says.
She has also been spearheading accountability. To deal with lack of trust in public institutions, Nkala has been trying to restore trust among people she interacts with by doing the right thing at individual level. Nkala’s workmates believe she deserves to be an integrity icon. The head of Sigola Primary School where she works, Vusa Lunga, says she has demonstrated great ability since joining the school.
“Socially, she is well-behaved and committed to duty. She is a person of good character and has good organising skills. She has been involved in fundraising initiatives at the school and demonstrated great capacity. She is one person who goes the extra mile, she does duties that are beyond her school chores.”
The Sukasihambe Primary School head says Nkala is beyond reproach. “She is a hardworking person and she shows great care and compassion to learners. She has empathy and works well with others. She is a real team player but is self-driven. Her greatest asset is that she loves children and she is attached to them,” she said.
“Fundile is no longer at our school but we feel her gap. The community feels her gap and the children feel her gap. She was donating uniforms and shoes to vulnerable children and this went a long way in bringing smiles on their faces.” Lydia Banda, the director of GET, an organisation that has been partnering her school shoe campaign, has been working with Nkala for almost half a decade.
“I have seen so much growth from her. She is a bubbly person who passes on energy to the next person. She is loving, kind, caring and compassionate. She is also a very hardworking. I believe she can be a worthy integrity icon given her personality,” Banda says.
“We have ventured into a number of communities with her in Bulawayo, Matabeleland South and Matabeleland North, where hundreds of people have benefitted from her initiatives. She volunteers in the mobilisation of resources and helps to identify vulnerable people and those requiring mental health support,” Banda says.
Lincen Masarirambi, a community development officer at MOSH, says his organisation has received invaluable support from Nkala, who has counselled and offered mental health support to children with disability. “She has offered counselling and therapy who are stressed or are having difficulties in accepting the condition of their children. She is a great speaker and has been involved in workshops and also goes into the community for home visits.
“The impact of her intervention has been great. Many mothers are thankful for the support they have received. Some of the mothers were blaming themselves for the condition of their children, especially those who may have two or three children living with disability. Some saw it as a punishment from God but she has helped them understand issues and also the fact that their children are special,” Masarirambi says