[notice]“I believe that God wants his people to be more involved in schools” says Blessing Marunga, principal of Blessing Christian School in Westbourne Road, Port Elizabeth. He has no doubt that God established this remarkable school with its pre-school, primary school, high school and special needs divisions. How else could a young, unconnected, Zimbabwean exile with no financial resources start such a school in a fine office building in a busy commercial street in the heart of PE? [/notice]
At the age of 23, after a short stint of primary school English teaching, Blessing Marunga established a successful high school college in Harare, Zimbabwe. He became a national celebrity and was happy to take the glory for himself.
But the success did not last. After the Zimbabwean economy went into meltdown he moved to South Africa where he faced an uncertain future. He gave up the dream of ever having a school of his own again. He had little hope of securing a teaching post. The only way he could think of earning some money was to offer extra lessons.
And so he made some flyers and approached several Port Elizabeth schools offering extra tutoring services. To his surprise the principals he saw were all exceptionally supportive and accommodating and his extra lessons in maths, science and basic reading thrived.
“The principals’ favour just touched me. When people are nice and kind to you in a foreign country you really begin to feel the presence of God around you. Then I realised God had a purpose for me being here,” said Marunga.
He had gone to church in Zimbabwe but he had not had a relationship with God. All of that changed in PE, where he was alone, without relatives but with a growing awareness of God’s grace and favour.
He recalls walking along Westbourne Road one day, wishing he could afford a venue of his own for his extra lessons. At the time he used to hire facilities in public libraries. He noticed a “To Let” sign on a three-storey building. But it was beyond his financial reach. But soon afterwards, when some parents urged him to start a school he went to a quiet place to pray and the Westbourne Road building came to mind.
Trusting in God
“So I went to see if the sign was still there. It was, and so, I walked into the building with absolutely no money but trusting in God. I asked the owner if I could have his building.”
Marunga said that after the owner told him the cost, he marketed the building to the parents who had approached him. They prayed together and the parents came up with enough money to rent part of the building.
“The owner is God-given. He has understood and given me the opportunity to start this school,” said Marunga, who opened the school in January 2010.
The school had no desks or resources to start with, so he approached various schools for assistance. Again, he was awed by the kindness and helpfulness of the schools he approached such as Harvest Christian School, Erica and St George’s. Schools gladly provided desks and materials and even sent him “overflow” learners that they could not accommodate. The Department of Sport also showed him favour, saying his learners were welcome to use their sports fields. He has also had ongoing encouragement and timely financial assistance from Providence Church. A British benefactor sponsored illiterate children who came off the streets: children who would not normally have access to mainstream schooling. Today those children can read and write.
Marunga said that his love for Jesus and his gratitude grew immensely through the experience of being given a school again, against all odds.
“So I decided to dedicate this school to Him: that’s why I call it Blessing Christian school.”
He said the school, which currently has 83 learners and seven experienced, full time teachers, was indeed a source of blessing to its children and their parents. His wife, Grace, runs the pre-school department.
“Our vision is Christ through education,” he said. In addition to offering sound teaching in a harmonious environment, the school regularly invited pastors from different churches to address learners and their parents.
He said he was inspired by the pastors’ willingness to make time for preaching at the school. He said that for some of the children, school was the only place they heard God’s word. He said various parents had reported that their children’s behaviour had improved since attending the school.
He said most of the learners were from Walmer Township and Central. Seventy of the 83 learners were South Africans. Others were from Zimbabwe and Congo. He had spoken to the owner of the building about renting more space next year which would allow them to increase their enrollment.
“We are going ahead in full faith,” he said.