New U.S. Initiative Connects Students with Career Opportunities in Zim

group shotA new initiative by the EducationUSA Advising Center based at the United States Embassy, Zimbabwe Career Connect, is working to address Zimbabwe’s brain drain by connecting students who are currently studying in the United States with local companies, hospitals and non-governmental organizations.

“This program helps students get exposure to what it is like to be a professional in Zimbabwe in a given field of study,” said Rebecca Zeigler Mano, EducationUSA Country Coordinator during a ceremony held in honor of 13 organizations that hosted 18 students in Harare on last Friday. “We used to get a lot of criticism that we promote brain drain by taking top students who never come back to Zimbabwe, but on the other hand I’ve had a lot of students who visited our EducationUSA Advising Centers tell us about their desire to come home but who had challenges getting professional contacts.”

Virginia Muwanigwa and Sharon Mutwitwa
Virginia Muwanigwa and Sharon Mutwitwa

The eighteen students had an opportunity to experience the Zimbabwean professional environment and were attached to commercial companies, such as Schweppes, Galaxy Engineering, Liquid Telecoms, TechZim and Ecosurgica.  Others were based at nongovernmental organizations such as Hypercube Hub; Hope for a Child in Christ,  Island Hospice, Family AIDS Caring Trust (FACT), African institute of Biomedical Science and Technology(AiBST), and the Humanitarian Information Facilitation Center (HIFC).

Four pre-medical students shadowed neurosurgeon Dr. Nozipo Maraire and urologist Dr. Allen Chiura in a variety of public and private clinical settings.  Another student, Will Moyo, a biomedical engineering major at Harvard College, worked with Dr. Tariro Makadzange at Parirenyatwa Hospitals in the Infectious Diseases Lab where she assisted in conducting various studies on HIV and AIDS treatment and care.

A returned student from Amherst College, Liberty Chigova, helped Zeigler Mano to coordinate the program. Given the success of its first year, the Zimbabwe Career Connect Internship Program hopes to become an ongoing initiative of EducationUSA, and will take advantage of students who come back to the country during the annual U.S. college breaks from June-August.

“The work environment is very different and students have to adapt to that. They are exposed to new challenges; the challenge for them is to try and bring home their positive messages and international exposure,” said Zeigler Mano. “At the same time, the interns have learned important lessons about the resilience of people here and how to get things done at a higher level.”

Supervisors and students shared their experiences during the meeting and had high hopes for the success of the initiative.

“The U.S.- Zimbabwe Career Connect program came at just the time we needed it having had to cut costs due to reduced funding,” said Virginia Muwanigwa, Coordinator of the Humanitarian Information Facilitation Center (HIFC).  Her organization, HIFC,  was host to Sharon Mutwiwa, a political science and gender studies student at Coe University in Iowa.

Muwanigwa said the internship experience initiated her organization into the world of social media and other innovative ways of reaching previously unreached audiences. “I was one of the speakers at a press conference on the response to (Prosecutor General Johannes) Tomana’ statements about girl child marriages and I was speaking as the chairperson of the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe when someone asked me “When did you start tweeting?”” narrated Muwanigwa. “I denied it, but someone said HIFC was busy. I then realized that it was Sharon sharing information about proceedings at the event.”

Despite limited resources, with the use of a well and differently-educated Zimbabwean intern, her organization had managed to conduct more activities in both urban and rural settings.

“The experience has made me more willing to come back home after my studies,” said Sharon. “We have gaps in our media culture, which NGOs always complain about, but they can be overcome these gaps by adopting new social media strategies that reach local citizens and Zimbabweans in the Diaspora,” said Sharon, who received a partial scholarship to study at Coe University.  “I’m going to do another internship in the U.S. so the earlier experience in Zimbabwe has been useful. People may have few resources, but they are doing a lot of good work.”

There are currently just over 1200 Zimbabwean students at United States colleges and universities, according to the 2014 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange published by the Institute of International Education in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.  For these 18 students, the decision to come home and apply their American education in Zimbabwe just became that much easier.  For more information on the Zimbabwe Career Connect program, see the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/zimcareerconnect/ – ZimPAS © August 5, 2015