The Zimbabwe Diaspora Education Support Initiative is the brainchild of Daniel Molokele, a Zimbabwean human rights activist based in South Africa, who wanted to make an instant and positive impact on education in the country.
“The forum is a network of activists across the diaspora who represent different organisations. At the moment, we have 50 representatives from organisations in South Africa, Botswana, Belgium, the Netherlands, England, New Zealand, Canada and the USA. It is a very diverse group,” he said.
“We wanted to shift from just focusing on good governance and human rights issues in Zimbabwe and look to developing links with the diaspora.The education system in Zimbabwe has seen better days - especially if you compare it to how it was in the 1980s.”
With this in mind, last July he started to reach out to groups of Zimbabweans across the world so they could meet online and discuss practical ways of giving students back home a much needed boost. They meet regularly online and hold conference calls on Skype to coordinate their initiatives.
Senator David Coltart, the Minister for Education, has admitted education in Zimbabwe in “in crisis” due to a lack of funding. The government’s medium term plan for education shows many of the challenges Zimbabweans now face.
There is a lack of qualified teachers in the country, students have to share old and out of date textbooks and many schools have fallen into disrepair because there are no funds available to fix classrooms or repair other buildings.
However, the situation is improving and since the formation of the inclusive government, funding for education has been coming into the country.
Earlier this month, the government signed a $6.5million funding agreement with UNICEF to train much-needed teachers and improve management within schools over the next three years.
It is hoped the country’s 100,000 teachers will be trained in new skills with a further 10,000 gaining qualifications. In addition 8,000 headmasters and other key personnel involved in education at a district level, will be trained in management skills and plans are also in place to rebuild 24,000 classrooms – if the funding is available.
The government’s medium term plan for education is also to: introduce e-learning; ensure that by 2015 the textbook student ratio is 1:1; address gender imbalances so more girls are finishing school and taking technological and science subjects; tackle problems of adult literacy and establish Academies of Excellence in every province, where 40 per cent of the places will be reserved to help disadvantaged children who might not otherwise have access to education.
Molokele feels the diaspora can play an important role in getting Zimbabwe’s education system back on its feet by helping school associations connect with old students and groups of people who want to help in the diaspora.
“At the moment we are looking to work with the alumnus, school associations and headmasters’ associations to harness the potential of former students in the diaspora. We are encouraging student associations and alums to reconstitute themselves and set up structures in the diaspora.
“They can then set targets on how they can help their schools. Whether it’s aiming to fundraise and buy 10 computers or textbooks, or help with building projects. We are looking at ways they can link up with groups in the diaspora to help them with these goals,” he said.
They already have the support of Senator Coltart who is travelling to Johannesburg to meet with the forum early next month.
“We are hoping he will give us direction and guidance in how we can organise our priorities. At the moment, we are looking at how we can have maximum impact in the short term and score some immediate victories,” said Molokele.
“In the long term we want to have projects in place which will get international recognition, then we can look to development partners like the EU or the UNDP or UNICEF for funding.
“For me I’m saying, how can I help right now without waiting for international support. As a Zimbabwean can I not be responsible even for my old primary school?
I want to teach Zimbabweans we can take charge even beyond our own personal responsibility. As a community we need to take collective responsibility for ourselves. Zimbabwe has incredible human and natural resources, we should be able to get to a point where we don’t have to rely on the international community. I am hoping we can build a national ethos of community responsibility in the future.” - If you would like to contribute, contact Daniel by email on firstname.lastname@example.org