A letter from a friend… Paul Tomlinson


Although I am in contact with either Zimele or the Imbokodo Computer School almost every month, it is three years since Beryl and I last visited. I always knew of the Zimele principles right from the beginning when we fist talked about working together in 2007. At that stage these were wonderful principles although perhaps rather theoretical but eight years later we are seeing those same principles coming to a wonderful fruition.

We felt that as we were driving into Swayimane, that the whole area was tidier. We saw ladies going about their business wearing Zimele polo shirts and somehow it seemed to be a cleaner and more energetic place. When we arrived at the Imbokodo computer school, we were surprised to see how well the new building had been constructed and how proud were the people involved. It seems only yesterday that on one of your visits to the UK when we were visiting Birmingham Rotary Club, we decided to tell them that we wanted help to build a new computer school building and we asked for a financial contribution. Not only did they give their help but other Rotary clubs did too and you secured further funding from the USA. So here, right in front of us, was the new school which was an impossible dream only a few years ago.

The Imbokodo Management Committee had planned a presentation of their progress and it was a pleasant surprise to meet the team all in their uniforms and looking so professional. We were able to respond by telling them how pleased we were with their progress and the numbers of students who had benefited. We were able to make suggestions on the next steps which they were happy to include in their plans. The Committee were proud to display on the back of their shirts, the names of the Clusters which they represented. Here right in front of our noses was the theory being played out in practice. The next day we were able to show them how to do simple spreadsheet accounting before switching to a financial package in about three months time. My one disappointment was the internet connection which I felt was quite inadequate for effective teaching and yet the whole point of computer teaching is to open a door to the world through the medium of the internet. Subsequently we met with Andrew Ness from Tech Gents who is going to explore alternative ways of getting a strong internet connection. We will find some way of resolving this problem.

Not only were we delighted to see the progress at Imbokodo but also inspired by the women’s determination to work towards a higher goal of making it into a business centre with additional facilities which would help with its sustainability.

Our visit to Mtubatuba although made before visiting Imbokodo, was a step back in time. We were with Xolani and Kim as they began the democratic process towards the creation of another computer school. It was a painstaking and rather nail biting affair, but within two days the Cluster representatives had made their decision to move forwards together so that we could then elect a new Computer Management Committee with a commitment to support the proposed school. They are now in a position to accept ten computers and to begin the school in July of this year. It was like starting Imbokodo all over again and our only wish is that it will be just as successful.

It was an inspiring visit and makes us more determined than ever to contribute to the success of these women.

Best wishes for the future and congratulations on the outstanding successes and the building of such an exceptional team. I will no longer refer to Zimele principles as ‘theories’ – they are now established practice!


Paul & Beryl


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