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In Conversation With Trevor: Chikandiwa: Nation building starts at home

Gugulethu Siso In Conversation With Trevor

Educationist Tapera Chikandiwa says he was inspired by a difficult background to dedicate his life to transforming lives of young people through his Higher Achievers Coach Educational Centre (HACEC).

Chikandiwa (TC), who is the HACEC founder and director of studies, shared his journey on the platform In Conversation with Trevor hosted by Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube (TN).

Below are excerpts from the interview.

TN: Dr. Tapera Chikandiwa, Coach TC, welcome to In Conversation With Trevor.

TC: Thank you and welcome everybody, it is a pleasure for me to be here with you today.

I am quite pleased to be articulating my life story to everybody. Thank you.

TN: I am excited to have you here, for a number of reasons.

TC: Yes.

TN: Because I am passionate about nation building, and I believe that nation building begins at home then the school.

 And the work that you are doing at Higher Achievers Coach Educational Centre is fundamentally important to nation building.

So for me it is a privilege and honour to have you here. But I must ask you, why the tomatoes?

TC: As you are saying that nation building starts at home, between 1976 and 1979, my mother taught me a skill [in] how to grow tomatoes.

You know when you are taught things by your parents at times you do not understand.

So she gave me a [tomato] variety called red khaki, and I grew it, and the tomatoes matured after about 76 days, and she then asked me to sell them.

So I sold them in the rural barrels, you know the deep ones. So I loaded them there and I sold them for a tick.

TN: Which rural area is this? Where?

TC: That is Rusape. At a village called Temaruru. That is where I grew up.

 So I sold the tomatoes and then she asked me to use the amount that I got to buy some sweets.

And yeah, that was that.

And she never said a thing about it. When I then qualified as a teacher, one thing struck me that money is never enough, your salary is not enough.

And I could not make make ends meet. Things were tough for me, and my mother was no longer there because she [had] passed on.

There was no way for me to go to say ‘mom can I have some mealie meal; can I have something’, you know.

There was nothing. I then decided to grow tomatoes.

TN: So are you still growing tomatoes now?

TC: Yes, I started growing tomatoes, and when I was now growing tomatoes from there that is when God talked to me.

 You know God talks to people.

When I was growing tomatoes at one time they were hit by a disease, it was some infestation of insects called leaf miners.

So they ate all the leaves, and nothing was left.

So I was so worried, and I asked God what that was.

So a message came to me to say prune the tomato plant, [and] no leaf. Get what I am saying?

And then I had to leave a strip with no leaves, and then the Lord told me to water them.

And I kept on watering for about two weeks and behold new life came out. By new life I mean new branches, new beautiful leaves...

TN: Yes!

TC: And I started looking after the leaves, spraying and dealing with the insects and the funguses, and that is where I got the idea that I had to start a school.

TN: Hah.

TC: A school that I will look at learners and look at them just like tomatoes and the tomatoes then have always been part of my life.

I will have to grow tomatoes. I never buy tomatoes.

TN: How big is [your] production for tomatoes? Is it a big thing?

TC: Yeah, it is a big thing. I actually supply Bon Marche, OK Zimbabwe. Big shops in Zimbabwe. I supply them.

TN: Wow.

TC: With tomatoes, I can produce a tonne a day. That is 10,000 plants. Each tomato plant can give me 10kg.

TN: Where do you farm the tomatoes? Still in Rusape?

TC: No. I now have a plot.

TN: Okay.

TC: In Beatrice. I also have  space in Glen Forest in Harare.

TN: Yeah.

TC: And I also have space at my house. I always make sure that I utilise every piece of land  that is there to grow some tomatoes.

TN: When do you get the time to do tomatoes and run this very beautiful school?

TC: Time is supposed to be created. You have to create time. You know we do not have time because it is always moving on, so you must create time.

 I have to create time. If I get a moment, because you know I discovered these things late.

There are some things Trevor when you discover them you just say; ‘ ah I am late!’

So if you are late you use every moment that you have to do productive things.

 My time is always occupied because you know there are many things that I have to do.

So I create time. Even if it means I have to get a torch or put a flood light [to] monitor what is happening I will do it.

TN: So you started; you are the founder and owner of Higher Achievers Coach Educational Centre.

And you have been running this now for 31 years?

TC: I have been in education for 31 years.

TN: You have been in education for 31 years.

TC: And Higher Achievers for 15 years.

TN: 15 years. My apologies.

But I want us to go to a very interesting starting point.

That starting point is that you were considered dull, and people laughed at you when you were young.

Talk to me about that?

TC: I was at Waddilove. I love Waddilove, the Methodist institution in Zimbabwe. And there I was a tiny boy.

You know in terms [as] I was coming from the rural areas with Waddilove having so many kids coming from Chitungwiza and I was coming from the rural areas, the first encounter with a movie, a film, we used to call them bioscope.

TN: Yeah.

TC: Was Tiki.

TN: Hahaha!

TC: That is the one. When we [were] talking about movies, they say okay let us talk about movies, then you talk about the stickman Tiki.

That was a stickman, a cartoon something. That was what I had. And my friends would talk about the Knight Rider.

I did not understand what they were talking about.

They would talk about Tarzan and all these things, [and] I did not know about that.

So in terms of modern living, I was not there. And in terms of television, because my father never bought a television set, I did not know what a television was, even at Form One.

I only started seeing televisions after visiting other places.

So with that kind of background, you get into a school where children are coming from the urban areas, and in terms of socialisation it means that you cannot really argue or discuss with them because you have nothing to offer.

So you then find yourself...

TN: You feel inferior?

TC: You feel inferior. And my father was not a rich guy. He used to work for the city council.

So he would give me $4.20. That was bus transport to Waddilove, and that was enough.

The bus would cost $4.17, you get $0.03 change. But after lunch kids will always go to the tuckshop and what I could do only was to go and be the first in the queue to buy candy cakes.

And then I would get a chunk from my friends, and they would get the biggest.

Even up to now if I see a candy [cake] I get so much attracted.

My wife then dealt with me there. She bought me lots of them!

And in that kind of environment, with that kind of background, you get into a class, you want to say something people always give you a name.

You go to the dining room...

TN: What names did they give you? Do you remember?

TC: Yeah. Because I did not have tuck (money). You know we were supposed to have tuck.

The biscuits, and you know the Charhons and the Lobels biscuits. I did not have them.

When you go to the dining hall you are supposed to ask for porridge right? And guess what then do they call you?

TN: Porridge?

TC: No they then called me Oliver Twist.

TN: Hahaha!

TC: Because I asked for porridge. I think Oliver Twist if you read the book, I think it was this little boy.

TN: Yes!

TC: So they gave me  the name Oliver Twist. Which is a name I then actually accepted it.

TN: So they called you Oliver Twist?

TC: Yes. One thing I learned in life is to accept every name that people give you.

I do not have to argue with you.

 If you call me Oliver Twist, that is how you see me. but that is not who I am. I learned that at a very early age.

I got that name, and performance in class, they would always say what good comes out of...

TN: Oliver Twist.

TC: Oliver Twist. One thing that happened. My birth certificate had the name David, but I was so dull that I did not realise when the statement of entry came from Cambridge for all ‘O’ Level that the name David had disappeared.

I think it was left [out]. I only realised it when the certificate came that the name that was now on my certificate was Tapera only. That was the the level of fear that I had, to the extent that [I could not] check [on my] own.

TN: Wow.

TC: To the extent that my father had to then take me through the process of name change.

Where the name David disappeared, and then Tapera came in.

TN: You also faced rejection because you had a skin disease. So that adds to you being [called] Oliver Twist and this condition. Talk to me about that?

TC: Yeah. At one time [I was] allergic. I am quite hyper allergic.

When I started getting a bit of money I then had to check [with] the doctors.

 I think the specialist checked me. I think with the number of tests you realise that I am allergic to almost anything, to dogs, to cats, to fur, to dust. Anything.

 I react to fish. To anything.

TN: That is me, hey. And I discovered this round about November [2023], you know having to suffer quite quite a lot.

And then I went for the sixth or so test [and found] that am I am allergic to a lot of things.

TC: Yes. That is me.

TN: So it presented itself on your face?

TC: Yeah. For some reason I think I got in contact with something, you know when you are in a school, people may use [deodorants], anything.

Something that happened there that I got into contact with, and then I think it went onto my face.

And then my skin started peeling off. You know it started peeling off and it became septic.

And we had some ladies, some girls from South Africa, and they actually complained to the boarding master and the headmaster that we cannot eat with this guy.

TN: Wow.

TC: So I had to eat my lunch from outside because I developed a skin disease...

TN: No!

TC: And at one time I woke up, I still remember that I woke up. I was in Form 2, and I did not have my hair, on a certain portion of my head there was no hair.

It was just like smooth. And you know in addition to the skin thing, then my hair disappears, and people are saying the hair has been taken by witches you know [such] things.

TN: So what did that do to you?

TC: I got so devastated. I got so devastated, and my mother was still alive.

She also got so worried and she tried many things.

I was so worried about it, but you know at times there [are] no solutions to these things.

But maybe what I want to appreciate is that I had friends, who then supported me through it.

They encouraged me to stabilise. And for some reason I stabilised, and I started doing well in Bible Knowledge.

  • “In Conversation With Trevor” is a weekly show broadcast on YouTube.com//InConversationWithTrevor.  

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