We are in an unusual era in Zimbabwe. Indeed, an unprecedented one, which calls for an approach and a form of sacrifice that are fittingly unmatched and nonpareil.
By Mutsa Murenje
I know what it means to be an unemployed graduate. I know how frustrating it is to pass with flying colours at every level of education and still be unemployed and underemployed.
I understand the pain that a loving and caring parent goes through when they lack the ability to meet their own needs, let alone those of their children.
I understand our daily pressures, and we all know what needs to be done to unlock the political and economic conundrum that we are experiencing as a nation. We have continuously registered our displeasure and dissent against our political oppressors. Our cries, however, seem to be falling on deaf ears.
Instead of solutions, we continue to be bullied, threatened and intimidated by President Robert Mugabe’s regime.
I read remarks attributed to Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo in the past few days. According to him, our graduates are unskilled and inexperienced.
This isn’t surprising though. When reading for my degree at the University of Zimbabwe in 2003, I did socio-economic development as one of my first-year courses. Education was one of the topics we covered.
I remember very well that we looked at the Nziramasanga recommendations. What Moyo has said isn’t anything new, but something already in the public domain. However, be that as it may, circumstances of our graduates might have changed from the time that Nziramasanga made his recommendations.
By the time I graduated in 2007, I had worked in a number of institutions, including the Department of Social Services, Zimbabwe Aids Network and Inter-Country People’s Aid. I am confident that the skills and experience gained there made me competitive, not only in Zimbabwe, but also in the region and the world.
Although primarily based in South Africa (I am married and have children there), I have been to Kenya and Nigeria in Africa and I am currently reading for my doctoral degree in Australia. When my host country’s university calculated my grade point average, it was found to be 5.94 out of 7, far above the 5.25 required for eligibility to receive a scholarship. And, this is Zimbabwean education we are talking about. I have also had offers in the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom.
Three days before I received the Australian scholarship, I had been offered a place at the University of Johannesburg. As I see it, the problem isn’t the lack of skills or experience. Nowadays, students go for industrial attachment for a year and they are exposed to real work situations, where they are capable of gaining the necessary skills and experience to enable them to contribute to the development of our economy.
I am of the viewpoint that our education has improved. We are only being let down by the political leadership in our country. Life in Zimbabwe is replete with many injustices, frustrations and disappointments. The regime suffocates civil society, disenfranchises popular forces, plunders the economy and stunts wealth creation that might confront poverty, marginalisation and deprivation.
It is shameful that the blame is being put on the graduates when the government is responsible for creating an environment that discourages domestic and foreign investment. In Africa, the public sector has always been the largest employer and our government hasn’t been able to absorb many of our graduates.
If it’s that difficult for the public sector to employ graduates, then it’s even worse for the private sector, whose operations have been made especially difficult by the intransigence and foolishness of the Mugabe regime.
I sympathise with the unemployed graduates. My circumstances might be different from theirs now, but I have been there. I lived a stressful life and I found myself depressed. Had it not been for my strong will, I would have collapsed. Thus, like Walt Whitman in Song of Myself “I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I, myself, become the wounded”.
Our graduates, like everyone else in Zimbabwe, are wounded. A person in pain needs love, not blame. Wounded people, broken by suffering, ask for only one thing: a heart that loves and commits itself to them, a heart full of hope for them. The current crop of leaders in Zimbabwe is incapable and unwilling to meet this need.
The challenges we are facing go back to Mugabe and his Cabinet. We can only keep demanding for his stepping down. We are a creative and innovative lot. We are capable of taking this great country of ours to levels not seen before. It is my generation that understands the basic workings of the modern State in this globalising world.
We have only been denied the chance to place our physical and intellectual abilities at our nation’s service. We are in dire need of a new order in Zimbabwe. The current order is obsolete and has failed to inspire confidence in us. Your behaviour, whether on domestic and international issues, materially and psychologically affects us.
Your behaviour cannot escape observation and scrutiny by your subjects and beyond. Zimbabwe is in dire needs of respectable institutions and responsible leaders, who will respect these institutions whether locally or internationally. Although we really love to talk about our sovereignty, we need not be blind to our domestic and international responsibilities. In the words of William Ewart Gladstone: “The proper function of a government is to make it easy for the people to do good and difficult for them to do evil”.
If guns were sufficient for freedom, then we wouldn’t dare raise our voices.
But when we keep sharing drinking water with animals, then we are yet to realise that freedom. When children, who need to be in school aren’t there, then we have leadership failure in the country.
We have to pause and think deeply. We need to ask some hard questions because this is an intolerable situation. We surely can’t continue like this. As Seretse Khama observed: “Perhaps the time has come when we should sit down and look very closely at ourselves before we condemn, before we accuse, and try to determine where the fault lies, whether it is really due to interference of external powers or our own mishandling of our own affairs.” May God help Zimbabwe! The struggle continues unabated!
Mutsa Murenje is a social and political writer based in South Africa