A HUMAN rights activist from Zimbabwe told Boston Spa School pupils how he found sanctuary in England but now cannot return to his native country.
Henry Olonga addressed the school as part of the Speak Up Speak Out campaign which was the theme of last week’s Holocaust Memorial Day and designed to get students to speak up when they see or hear something which they believe to be wrong.
“The topic has challenged students to learn about what happens when we don’t speak out and what can happen when we do use our voice,” said a school spokesman.
“Henry’s assemblies in school put the issue into context when he described what happened to him in his country.”
In 1995 Henry Olonga became the first black cricketer ever to play for Zimbabwe and, at 18, the youngest to do so.
But, while these feats have secured him a place in world sporting history, he is better known for an event on the pitch that had little to do with his notoriously unpredictable fast-bowling action.
Together with team-mate Andy Flower (now England coach) he caught the attention of the world’s media during the 2003 cricket World Cup, when he risked his life by wearing a black armband to protest against the human rights abuses being committed by Robert Mugabe’s regime.
He was dismissed from the squad, he went into hiding from threatened reprisals before finding sanctuary in England with an offer to join the Lashings World XI club of former Test cricketers.
He has not returned to Zimbabwe and, since 2006 when his Zimbabwean passport expired, he has been unable to travel outside the UK.
“This morning, after speaking to students aged 13 -15, he went into the sports hall to play cricket with the school cricket team.
“After demonstrating his bowling skills he spoke to the team about how important sport is to promote team and leadership skills and to encourage them to continue playing after they leave school.”