Accessibility links

'Born Free' Zimbabwe Youths Struggling to Survive

  • Taurai Shava

The cash-strapped government is no longer able to support students in colleges and universities. (File Photo)

The cash-strapped government is no longer able to support students in colleges and universities. (File Photo)

‘Born Free’ is a tag associated with people born in 1980 and soon afterwards following the protracted liberation struggle of the 1970s.

But the irony is that while the tag is associated with a good life, of people who did endure suffering to enjoy the new Zimbabwe, the majority of the so-called born-frees are struggling, 34 years after independence.

Most of them have never been employed and are living a life of want and disappointment.

One of them is James. Armed with a Bachelor of Arts degree and a post graduate diploma, James thought he had conquered the world. He has failed to fly high as he expected, thanks to a crumbling economy, blamed on the Zanu PF government.

While appreciative of the selfless efforts of the fallen and living war veterans who fought for the country’s political independence, James, who does not want to be identified by his second name for fear of being victimized, says he is sad that many of his peers, who got assistance from the government which paid for their university education, are suffering.

He says they have not been able to secure their dream jobs or even ordinary lowly paying ones to survive as companies continue to close. Most of the youths are drowning their sorrows in beer or end up joining political parties. (File Photo)

Most of the youths are drowning their sorrows in beer or end up joining political parties. (File Photo)

For the past 33 years, James has not known any other leader except President Robert Mugabe.

Despite his plight, James is arguably better off than many youths, some of whom have a similar high level of education but find themselves either unemployed or having to do odd jobs for a living.

The cash-strapped government is no longer able to support students in colleges and universities. Generally, education is now out of the reach of ordinary people who now have to rely on their own pockets to give their children higher education.

Tinaye Shumba was born two years after independence. Tinaye, who sat for her Ordinary Level examinations in 1999, initially passed four subjects and decided to earn a living through cross-border trading.

Despite the problems that the country is facing and the associated high unemployment, Tinaye, who has been lucky to find formal employment, says she retains faith in the importance of education.

She is furthering her studies believing this will increase her chances of getting a good job.

According to government, in the first decade of Zimbabwe's independence, enrolment of students from primary to tertiary level increased from one million to three million, a direct result of the new black government’s prioritisation of education.

The construction of state universities, polytechnic and vocational colleges, coupled with government's direct support of students, saw Zimbabwe attaining one of the highest literacy levels in sub-Saharan Africa.

But as the economy experienced a downturn from the mid-nineties, reaching rock-bottom in 2007, the gains of the early years of independence were reversed, with thousands of graduates failing to find employment and many of them deciding to seek better opportunities outside the country.

As the situation remains largely the same to this day, some observers have said the pre-independence period offered better opportunities to youths than the present day.

Norbert Nhutsve is a historian who works with a state-run organisation.

Speaking in his individual capacity, Nhutsve tells Studio 7 that although they may have been more and varied, the opportunities offered by the minority white government were limited to a few blacks.

Didymus Dewa, a development studies lecturer with the Zimbabwe Open University, says the government has done a lot in helping uplift youths.

Dewa, who is also an independent development and social analyst, says most youths have nothing to celebrate as they face a bleak future because of unemployment and poverty, problems which he believes have left them at the mercy of politicians.
Zimbabwe is failing to pay tuition fees for students at colleges and universities due to serious financial challenges. (File Photo)

Zimbabwe is failing to pay tuition fees for students at colleges and universities due to serious financial challenges. (File Photo)

He says instead of continuing to build more universities that churn out graduates year-in year-out, the government should seriously consider revising the country's education curriculum in order to impart knowledge and skills that enable graduates to create rather than look for employment.

On government's requirement for youths to participate in the controversial national service, Dewa says there is nothing wrong with the concept, for as long as it is not used as a political tool to advance the interests of an individual party ahead of the national interest.

Thirty four year-old Kudakwashe Munengiwa is a member of the standing committee of the Movement for Democratic Change led by Welshman Ncube.

He agrees with Dewa, adding that national service is done in other countries throughout the world to instill a sense of patriotism.

Some analysts point out that for all their much-vaunted education, Zimbabweans have not been able to do much to move the country forward, individually and collectively.

A nation's youth often plays an important role in changing its fortunes for the better, but it remains to be seen what role the born-frees can play in bettering their own lives and that of the nation at large.
XS
SM
MD
LG