Receiving a full scholarship to study in the United States has driven Chiza Ngachize Mwinde in search of ways to restore the dignity of her community in Binga where the shortage of qualified teaching personnel and inadequate learning facilities is affecting the academic progress of students.
“It is very hard for students in Binga to know, let alone, get such opportunities because of our geographic location which is far away from the big cities and because of the fact that most of our parents never got the exposure beyond what is happening in Binga,” says Chiza. The eighteen year old former Guinea Fowl High School student was part of the cast during the Careers Fair held at Binga Government High School on February 28th where she outlined how students in the remote town of Matabeleland North can attain her feat.
Chiza received a $61,000 per year for four years scholarship to study at Smith College, a top women’s college in the United States. After receiving exceptional passes in her O levels, she participated in the United States Achievers Program (USAP), an initiative of the United States Embassy Education Advising Centre designed to assist academically gifted but economically disadvantaged students.
USAP identifies just over 30 Upper 6 A Level students each year and assists them negotiate the application and scholarship process to top universities and colleges in the United States. Since it started in 1999, over 500 students have benefitted from USAP and they have received full scholarships at accredited universities in the U.S. USAP is currently accepting applications with a March 16th deadline which can be accessed at www.usapglobal.org or from any of EducationUSA’s four advising centers at the U.S. Embassy’s Public Affairs Section in Harare, Bulawayo Public Library, Gweru Memorial Library or Turner Memorial Library in Mutare. The applications have also been distributed widely to A Level schools throughout the country.
“This Careers Fair is a good start. After my studies in the U.S., I would like to come back and start a program modelled along the United States Achievers Program (USAP) where we will work intensively with young students that show potential so they can access scholarships, good colleges and universities and more networking opportunities,” says Chiza.
She encouraged the students to “work on your O levels first and get good grades,” making difficult concepts easy through sharing in her Tonga language. “Get involved in community activities and clubs – USAP looks at your leadership ethos and ability to give back to your community.” The first daughter of a retired Airforce of Zimbabwe warrant officer, Chiza attributes her success to hard work.
She says “the opportunity to study in the U.S. at a top women’s college is a dream come true. I had hoped my parents would save enough to fund my education locally at the School of Mines after A level because there was no way I could afford university education abroad.”
Chiza leaves in early August and spends most of her time teaching science and mathematics at Manjolo Secondary School, about 25 kilometers from Binga town. “It’s rewarding and fun, but the workload keeps increasing,” she says as she narrates some of her teaching experiences in Binga. The school authorities added two more classes of over 40 students each to her workload.
The Career Guidance Fair was organized by Binga High School alumnus and former student in the United States, Dominic Muntanga. It provided opportunities for high school students to learn more about career options as well as provide networking and mentorship opportunities between students and professionals. Schools in Binga lack qualified teachers who flock to major cities and towns. In the past, teachers’ associations have reported that some schools have an entire staff contingent comprising temporary teachers.
“When we asked some Form 6 students to name any university in Zimbabwe, they could only come up with three. This tells you how significant the dearth of information is in some of these schools. This makes you realize that while talent is universal, opportunity is not. With this platform we hope to create new beginnings, our vision is to identify students, and depending on their interest, link them up with a mentor in their field of interest,” said Muntanga.
In addition to the EducationUSA Advising Centre, the Fair was attended by various organizations and institutions including the Joshua Nkomo Scholarship Trust, Zimbabwe National Army, Ministry of Information, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and the Zimbabwe Youth Council, ORAP, National University of Science and Technology, Christian Youth Volunteers Association, Kalai Foundation and the Department of Irrigation Development.– ZimPAS, March 4, 2014.