Clive Malunga


The 44th president of the US Barack Obama once said, “Simple exchanges can break down walls between us, for when people come together and speak to one another and share a common experience, then their common humanity is revealed.”   Jenaguru Arts Centre believes that a sound arts education involves travelling and experiencing different cultures. Like President Obama said, we believe that cultural exchange programmes can have a profound effect of children’s behaviour, attitudes and life chances by significantly broadening their perspectives and appreciating other cultures. It further gives children the opportunity to showcase Zimbabwean culture to the world.

 In 1992 Jenaguru started going to Asia on a schools’ music exchange programme. It has been a well-received project in Japan and South Korea. The Jenaguru Music and Dance Group has been treated with dignity in each and every prefecture we have visited. We tour with school children ranging from grade 1 to grade 7. Each overseas tour with school children is an unforgettable experience. You will be travelling with innocent souls who show great enthusiasm to learn new things.

Our tours to Asia usually last from May to July.  At the beginning of every year, Jenaguru Arts Centre also arranges with the headmasters of the different schools where the young boys and girls chosen for a tour will be learning. We ask them to provide extra lessons to ensure that the children cover everything they may miss when they are on tour. Jenaguru makes a small donation to each teacher offering extra lessons through the headmaster. When we return from Asia we also bring a lot of stationery for all the schools the touring students attend. On many previous occasions we also donated musical instruments, soccer balls, hockey sets and lap tops.

Before we travel, I invite parents of selected kids to come to Jenaguru and discuss the welfare of the kids when they are abroad.  The main purpose of inviting parents to Jenaguru is so that we jointly give our kids some form of pre-departure training.  Our training emphasizes on basic interpersonal skills such as how to greet others, show respect for others and express gratitude when given a gift by well-wishers. We make them understand that everyone on tour will be representing and flying the flag of Zimbabwe. We teach them not to steal or fight amongst themselves.  They learn to work as a team.

 All kids who qualify to join Jenaguru Music and Dance Group automatically receive the following benefits: payment of school fees, transport from and to their homes, passport application fees, free training in traditional dance, free training in playing traditional instruments (mbira, ngoma, hosho) and free refreshments during every training session.

 Before departure Jenaguru buys a suitcase and clothes for each child. During our transit through South Africa and Hong Kong, all Jenaguru members benefit from our managing director’s lounge golden card. Ideally, we should travel with a male teacher and a female teacher, to provide children with school lessons. However, due to financial problems, I take the responsibility to look after boys while our managing director looks after the girls.

For most kids, the maiden tour will be the most exciting because it would be their first time to fly, sleep on a luxury bed in a hotel, eat very good food and have a computer in her/his room. In Japan, we usually arrange a home stay for all the children.  The mayor and member of parliament for the host constituency invites parents who are willing to come and choose one child each for home stay. The home stay immerses the kids in Japanese culture. Listening to conversations in a foreign language and facing the challenge of an unfamiliar culture, expands their ideas about food, work ethos, making friends and meeting their basic needs.

 These Japanese parents are very hospitable and take very good care of our touring kids, spoiling them with a lot of quality clothes.  Eventually, many of them volunteer to pay school fees and buy uniforms for Jenaguru kids when they return home. Before performing in each city, we are given a welcome party and when we are leaving, a farewell party. The sponsor takes the group to an amusement park, aquariums or any iconic places. Seeing foreign landforms and landmarks provides the kids with invaluable lessons that they will carry for life. They will become more independent and develop greater self-esteem which will serve them well in the future.

We usually perform at elementary schools, high schools, universities, galleries and hospitals. The usual performance time is from 1200 to 1300.  During the performance the host school will showcase their traditional music. Jenaguru Music and Dance Group will showcase 6 to 8 traditional Zimbabwean dances such as Shangara, mhande, mbakumba, dinhe, hoso, pfonda, chinyambera and muchongoyo. We will also showcase and sometimes teach them how to play traditional drums (ngoma), shakers (hosho), ngundu, mbikiza, clay pots, mbira and magavhu (leg rattles), shields and knobkerries.

Some students who have participated in the cultural exchange programmes are excelling academically.  This is because we encourage them to work very hard both on the artistic and educational side. Those who excel academically will get support for their education. I make special mention of Aisha Palume and Rutendo Bvonyongwa whom we gave scholarships to study at Admiral Tait Primary School and Tichafara Makomborero, who has since completed his Upper 6 at St George’s College. Jenaguru intended to send Vincent Matuso to Japan to study for a degree. Unfortunately, he could not go because of Covid19 restrictions.

Jenaguru does not pay school children for the tour as this is against the law. However, Jenaguru provides parents of the children who go on tour, gifts and substantial amounts as allowances for the participation of their children in the tour.
I have no doubt that the experience which children get in international cultural exchange tours will help them to reach beyond their greatest expectations.  Seeing people appreciating their performance of Zimbabwean traditional dances assists the kids to become proud of their identity. Self-belief is a vital ingredient for building a strong nation politically and economically, and Jenaguru is contributing its bit to that noble cause.