UNITED States colleges and universities have collectively offered US$4.7 million worth of scholarships to 22 Zimbabwean students who participated in the United States Student Achievers Programme (USAP) in the past year.
USAP assists highly-talented, economically-disadvantaged students to access admission and full scholarships at top colleges and universities in the United States.
The programme’s coordinator, Rebecca Zeigler Mano, began USAP “to level the educational playing field in Zimbabwe, providing access for bright students from all regions and ethnic groups in the country to realise their educational dreams, no matter what their economic and family background.”
The 22 scholarship recipients were honoured by the US ambassador Charles Ray and Zimbabwe’s Education Minister David Coltart at Prince Edward in Harare on Friday.
Musical icon Oliver Mtukudzi was the guest of honour at the event also attended by families of the departing students, who hail from all over Zimbabwe.
“These young people are about to begin a series of adventures that will shape their individual futures and, undoubtedly, their communities and their country, Zimbabwe, when they return from the U.S,” Ambassador Ray said.
“Reflecting on my nearly three years in Zimbabwe, I enjoy celebrating well-deserved achievement with bright and energetic youths filled with dreams of furthering their education."
Coltart urged the lucky 22 to return home at the end of their four-year degree programmes to apply their acquired skills to the advancement of Zimbabwe.
“So many Zimbabweans get a good secondary education. They then get a scholarship at Harvard or Oxford and then remain there,” Coltart said. “The value to their community or nation is ultimately lost.”
Mtukudzi told the students they should not go to university “for the wrong reasons”.
“Believe it or not, I was there at school,” the singer said to laughter from the audience. “You may laugh, but I was there. But unfortunately, I am not as educated because I went to school for my parents. I understood that if I pass the exams, my parents would be happy. It wasn’t for me.”
Mtukudzi also called on the students to be proud of who they were, and never to think their culture was inferior.
He told them: “Never lose sight of who you are. You go to school to enhance what you already have. Don’t be attracted by different cultures because your culture is not inferior at all; it is unique to you.
“You will always be Zimbabwean, and there will never be a better Zimbabwean than a Zimbabwean.”
Coltart said parents, teachers and school children had a passion for education, but said the government had failed to match this by committing resources.
“The passion by parents, teachers and children has been an incredible source of encouragement for me as I seek to stabilise the (education) sector and take it forward,” Coltart said.
“The challenge is that (the Zimbabwean) government itself needs to value education more. There is no doubt that in the past, education was valued by the government, but I believe the last two decades of successive governments, including the inclusive government, have not valued education with the same passion as parents, teachers and children.”
The minister said foreign travel expenditure by the Zimbabwe government “is almost three times the amount spent on non-salary components of education.”
USAP is an initiative of the EducationUSA Advising Programme, which has centres in Bulawayo, Gweru, Harare and Mutare. EducationUSA started in 1999 in Zimbabwe. USAP is now in 14 countries on four continents. Further details are available on www.usapglobal.org
USAP Scholarship Beneficiaries:
1. Bhekinkosi Sibanda – Harvard University
2. Brian Zingwe – Providence College
3. Charlene Chabata – Brown University
4. Clive Mudanda – Duke Univesity
5. Farai Musariri – Hendrix College
6. Fortunate Chifamba – Smith College
7. Getrude Makurumidze – Bryn Mawr College
8. Iris Chipendo – Wesleyan University
9. Julia Jenjezwa – Yale University
10. Kudakwashe Muchandibaya – Jacobs University, Bremen
11. Kudzai Abslom Katema – Concordia College
12. Leslie Mateveke – Berea College
13. Mengezi Ngwenya – Connecticut College
14. Nigel Mevana – Amherst College
15. Paul Takunda Chazovachii – College of St Scholastica
16. PraiseGod Nyamundanda – Univ of Pennsylvania
17. Primrose Evelyn Nyahwai – Keuka College
18. Promise Kondo – Jacobs University, Bremen
19. Tinashe Matate – Jacobs University, Bremen
20. Veronica Mupazviriwo – College of St Elizabeth
21. Will Desiree Dokotela Moyo – Harvard University
22. Bulelani Jili – Wesleyan University (from Durban, South Africa)