Zimbabwe’s Education Minister David Coltart has publicly complained that the coalition government is neglecting education and instead spending far too many precious resources on foreign travel for President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangiri — and their bloated delegations. He did also note that the trend for neglecting spending on education in favor of other departments such as defense was an unfortunate international one.
Coltart was speaking at a function for 22 departing Zimbabwean students who were awarded $4.7 million in scholarships between them to study at American Universities. The scholarships are awarded via the United States Achievers Program.
Julia Jenjeza is going to study mechanical engineering at Yale University. She praised the U.S. for the program that has afforded her and her colleagues a chance at getting the best education in the world.
The USAP program, which assists highly talented but under-privileged students, was launched 12 years ago, benefiting more than 250 Zimbabweans so far.
At the event was United States Ambassador, Charles Ray, who urged the students to learn everything they could from the opportunity and then return to Zimbabwe to serve their communities with their new found skills and knowledge. This sentiment was echoed by others:
Popular musician, Oliver Mtukudzi, who was the guest of honor, told the students never to forget where they are coming from, adding their communities should benefit from the knowledge and skills they are going to gain from the United States.
The education sector in Zimbabwe is outdated, underfunded and badly in need of a complete overhaul. While Coltart derides the government for being too focused on its own internal problems and managing the global images of the two pugilists at the top at the expense of educating its people, education is far from the only sector in Zimbabwe that needs urgent attention. Having spent four years studying in the United States and developing the skills to be internationally employable it is unclear how many of the students will be attracted by the notion of returning home to a country governed by an uneasy Coalition and still at war with itself. As academic Admore Tshuma said, if they want the students to return and serve Zimbabwe it is up to Harare to reform policies and programs in ways that will entice the students to come back.