Zimbabwe is approaching a critical point in her unique although checkered history. Frost and Sullivan report massive development in our mining sector, analysts have accounted for a strong return to Zimbabwean tourism, and our work to innovate education, culture, the arts and sport continues to raise eyebrows and intrigue around the globe. Though partnered with cautious optimism, we see before us a tangible and exciting roadmap for fundamental infrastructural progression.
With this outlook in mind, we and the international community have to now address that which has flown under the radar for much too long – the responsibility in newfound opportunity and what must be undertaken to encourage sustainable development.
We have to pay close attention to specific investments in the nation, ensuring corporate integration and commercial goals match a commitment to our own. For the Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture in particular, our goals have been to enhance and exhilarate the athlete, artist and student experience in Zimbabwe, foster pillars of structural stability and slow the ‘talent drain’, seeping away our nation’s brightest and best. We must now, in an era of change, accept the certain realities that in past have hindered this occurring and increase attention to what can be done.
As fragile and imperfect as the rebuilding process is in Zimbabwe from the election violence of 2008, and though we still consider ourselves newly out of an absolute state of crisis, our political strides are the only avenue we have and the restructuring process from my sector has to be cognoscente of this. We were once a beacon of African education; indeed it is tragic that today, we have but $5.00 USD to spend on every child’s education in Zimbabwe for the entire year and have received in total only $1 million USD of support from the United States over the last three. Increasing dropout rates, throughout the nation, perpetuate crime and amplify political strife. The truth is simply that if you invest in education, invest in health, you invest in human potential and indeed set the stage for economic capital. If we do so Zimbabwe will boom again.
However, although the Zimbabwean mining sector is expected to grow by 44 percent this year alone, buoyed by an increase in platinum, diamond, coal and ferrochrome output, western political capital and investment across the board has been notably low. Our network of partners and sponsors therefore play a pivotal role, one that requires political and social capital in order to amplify appropriately. Our goal is to increase the education budget, to innovate ‘learning as usual’ and revolutionize our schooling system. We are fighting for every child to receive a quality, contemporary education from qualified teachers nationwide.
The Government has received support to restore the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM), which assisted some 400,000 underprivileged children access education last year. In conjunction with UNICEF, we have provided 22 million textbooks to schoolchildren throughout Zimbabwe, allowing the ratio of student-to textbook-to reach 1:1, a tremendous precedent across most of the continent. Little is mentioned of these achievements abroad and the profound impact they are having on bringing about peaceful democratic transformation in Zimbabwe.
Though our Ministry has worked diligently with NGOs that continue to act, much more can be done in this climate. It is to this point, fair to say that shifting the international narrative on Zimbabwe is of the utmost importance.
We want to invite the world to see the changes we have accomplished, address the challenges we continue to face and help surpass the benchmarks we are working towards. In that light, we look to showcase a series of social media-disseminated case studies, interviews with Zimbabwe’s best of tomorrow and those that carry the flag proudly in their respective sects, such as our accomplished sports ambassadors. We look to document a modern Zimbabwe and in doing so, encourage openness, dialogue, and send a clear message worldwide as to what must be done to sustainably refill the once-breadbasket of Africa.
Zimbabwe’s growing prospects need effective oversight and indeed promotion to properly engage the international community. With an eye on opportunity through the Education Transition Fund and a calculated investment in the foundation of Zimbabwe’s future, we can set a groundbreaking precedent and provide tangible change at an instrumental level, for the long-term.