The value of your life is the difference you make for others. That’s what the Bata School taught me, and how I could realise my ambitions.
A FOUNDATION FOR SUCCESS
Dr Sydney Mukonoweshuro is definitely an ambitious person. In addition to his public ventures and his own private clinic, he is in the process of setting up a healthcare group with two of his brothers, who are also doctors. He attributes much of his success to the encouragement, focus and quality of education he got from the Bata Primary School, now called the Sara Bata Junior School, in his formative years.
The Sara Bata Junior School in Zimbabwe prides itself on producing students that excel. From the moment they arrive through the gates they are pushed to work hard, maintain high standards and represent the school with their actions. The headmaster and the teachers at the school create a supportive learning environment giving children a strong foundation on which to build a successful life.
Dr Mukonoweshuro describes some of the key learnings from his years at the Bata School that really made an impact on his life: “The school was strict. The Headmaster, Mr Manyima, and the teachers were tough on us, but they showed me things I could do, that I did not realise I could. From the moment you walked in through the gates you had to speak English and only English. Initially I thought this was stupid, but later I understood that this gave me a command of the English language that became my passport to go anywhere in the world.”
Dr Mukonoweshuro remembers a time when, as Head Boy, he had to put his English language skills to the test: “We would be asked to recite poems, and it was me, along with the Head Girl, who had the honor of reciting such a poem for Mr Bata when he visited. This was a defining moment for me: speaking in front of Mr Bata, the man who was running this huge shoe company in so many countries. That was very inspirational. This and other similar experiences gave me the confidence to stand before a crowd and speak publicly, something that has made me a leader throughout my career.”
SCHOOL, FAMILY AND BATA WORKING TOGETHER
“The Bata School pushed you to achieve academic excellence. 48 out of 50 was not considered good enough. Mr Manyima would say to me that I should be getting full marks, and so the next time I would make sure that I did. This push for excellence gave you the drive to want to be number one at everything.”
Dr Mukonoweshuro was also fully supported by his family. One of ten children, he was the youngest son of a long-standing Bata employee. His family grew up in a house in the Bata Gweru village, and his parents took education very seriously. “My father would say, ‘I might not be able to leave you much, but what I should be able to leave you with is a good education,’ and he would not let us drop grades or just mess around. He worked hand-in-hand with our teachers, doing mental mathematics with us when we got home and encouraging us to get involved with sweets as rewards.” His father spent over 25 years with Bata in Zimbabwe, mainly in the role of Training Officer. Here Dr Mukonoweshuro recalls his father’s Training Centre office was more like a library: stacked high with books.
Bata also supported Dr Mukonoweshuro and many of his siblings further, with bursaries awarded to outstanding students. “Almost half my family got that bursary, including myself. This was so motivational. You felt the company was taking an interest in you, and you were told that you were an ambassador for Bata. I believe this is what pushed us all to excel.”
A VISION FOR THE FUTURE
“Through my TV programs, I am now a recognisable figure in Zimbabwe. With my brothers I am setting up the healthcare group with the aim of ultimately going into medical aid. What I am trying to do is to make a difference.”