American and Canadian diplomats have said the recent visit by eighteen representatives of international universities from the United States, Canada and Spain represents a continued commitment by their countries to strengthen the education sector in Zimbabwe.
“Fundamentally, we view education as an absolutely essential part of Zimbabwe’s development and progress, and we will support it in any way we can,” said United States Ambassador Bruce Wharton during a tour of the Colleges Fair held at Prince Edward School on Monday. “We support education in a number of ways; the things we do that are good for education in Zimbabwe besides funding for the Education Transition Fund, bringing Zimbabwean students together with representatives of international universities, helps expand the horizons and offers opportunities.”
The visiting international college representatives are on a tour of several African countries under the umbrella of the Council of International Schools (CIS). The African tour will see the admission officers visit Zambia, South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Ghana with the aim of expanding the diversity of their student populations.
Over 2,500 Zimbabwean students are currently enrolled at various U.S. accredited colleges and universities. The visit complements the efforts of the EducationUSA certified educational advising center located at the United States Embassy Eastgate offices, with satellite advising centers at the Bulawayo Public Library, at the Gweru Memorial Library, and at the Turner Memorial Library in Mutare. All of these centers provide information about higher education opportunities in the United States.
Ambassador Wharton toured the Colleges Fair with two other diplomats from Embassy of Spain Charge d’ Affaires Ximena Sartori and Ambassador Lisa Stadelbauer (Canada).
Five Canadian universities were part of the tour and representatives said they were hoping to increase the number of Zimbabwean students enrolled at their respective universities. Canadian universities enroll about 100 students each year.
The Canadian Ambassador said her country had made a lot of investment in the Zimbabwe education sector in the eighties but with phasing out of Canadian development cooperation, the focus would now be on building people-to-people relations.
“Our government-to-government relations have been strained for some time but our people-to-people relations have been strong and will always be strong,” said Stadelbauer. “It’s exactly through events like this that we continue to make connections, and we hope the students come back to Zimbabwe and reinvest what they have learned.”
Dr. Yu-wan Wang, Associated Dean for International Admissions at Stony Brook State University of New York said her university was looking forward to more Zimbabwean students. “We rank in the top one percent in the world; we are one of the largest research universities and our tuition is only $17,000 per year.” She said there are about 20 Zimbabwean students and “they are doing so well.”
Megan Cameron, International Recruitment Specialist at Canada’s St Francis Xavier University said this was her university’s first tour of Zimbabwe. The college hosts over 250 international students, and she said that local Canadians made international students “feel welcome and special.” “We look for well-rounded students. It’s important that you are supporting your application with not only a strong academic average but also strong extra-curricular activities,” she advised.
Laura E. Martin, Vice President for Enrollment and Dean of Admission and Financial Aid at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, said students from African countries do very well at her college, which only takes women. “Atlanta is the home of CNN (Cable News Network) and Coca Cola… our campus is very diverse, and we are in a very large city and there are 19 or so colleges in the city, our students interact with students from other colleges as well.”
Each year, the EducationUSA Advising Center facilitates the visit of over 50 American colleges and universities to Zimbabwe. – ZimPAS