As reality kicks in following the widespread excitement that greeted the ignominious end of Robert Mugabe’s rule, Zimbabweans will have to roll up their collective sleeves as they begin the onerous task of rebuilding their ruined country.
The economy has all but collapsed and the culture of political intolerance and human right violations in the country was so pervasive people are in constant fear of being brutalised by their own government.
One casualty of the crisis has been the education system. It is widely hailed for producing highly qualified graduates and for increasing high adult literacy rates. In 2010 these rates reportedly stood at 92%.
But the combination of the economic and political meltdown and a raft of curriculum changes that were arguably implemented without the buy-in of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, seem to have seriously affected the quality of education.
Teachers migrated in droves to the neighbouring SADC countries in search for better opportunities. South Africa is believed to have benefitted immensely from this, recruiting the majority to teach maths and science – two crucial learning areas in which local teachers are poorly skilled.
The deteriorating economy saw younger and highly qualified Zimbabweans moving to South Africa to eke out a living. While most occupied leadership positions in various key sectors of the economy, some of them were forced to settle for menial jobs despite their qualifications.
Inside Education took to the streets of Hillbrow and Yeoville and spoke to some ecstatic young Zimbabweans about what the changes mean to them and if they are keen to return home. Most expressed a yearning to return home to help rebuild their country
Prisca Jeremiah is 31 years old and holds an LLB degree from Unisa. She intends to enrol for a Master’s degree in Corporate Law.
“I came to South Africa looking for a job. It was and still is very difficult to get a job here. In the end, I worked as a domestic helper for a family in Isando for three years. The treatment was awful but I had to endure it so that I can have something to eat and pay rent. In between my punishing domestic chores I made sure I studied and in 2013 I registered for a straight four-year LLB degree with Unisa,” said Jeremiah.
Currently, she said sells scones to survive.
“My wish is to go back home and find a decent job. I really want to lead a normal life and I hope things will work out sooner,” Jeremiah said.
Lekang Tabulawa, who hails from Bulawayo, arrived in South Africa in 2004. The 44-year-old holds Level 1-3 rugby coaching certificates having played rugby while in grade 4 at Msitele Secondary School. His brothers are rugby fanatics and at the time he came to South Africa he was involved with Highlanders Rugby Club.
“Rugby runs in the family and one of my brothers was a development coach. I also went into development working closely with the Zimbabwean Rugby Union. But as race relations soured between us, we were forced to cut ties with the rugby union and they ceased to fund us any further,” said Tabulawa.
He then went to Francistown in Botswana where he coached for ten years until he decided to come to South Africa.
“Upon my arrival, I tried to establish contacts with rugby bodies but things never worked out. I was forced to look for any kind of a job and currently, I work at a bakery and also double as a manager of a Tupperware sales team. Although the experience was not nice it helped me learn a few critical survival skills to fend for my wife and three children. I am watching the situation in Zimbabwe with keen interest and once things are back to normal, I will definitely go back home,” said Tabulawa.
“I never thought I would live in a foreign country but after I stared starvation in the eye I decided to leave my country of birth to live here in South Africa,” said Dorothy Ncube.
“To me when I could not find salt on the local shop shelves, I felt it was time to go look for a job outside Zimbabwe,” said Ncube.
The 34-year-old mother of three, two of whom she left back home, said she arrived in South Africa in 2010. She has the equivalent of matric and said despite the situation back home she prides herself on the quality of education they received.
“I am so excited things are promising back home and I am really keen to go back. As they say, home is home,” said Ncube.