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Zimbabwe Education Minister Blasts Gov't for Neglecting Sector

Zimbabwe's Education Minister David Coltart has blasted his colleagues in the coalition government for prioritizing foreign trips at the expense of the country's education sector that badly needs revamping after years of neglect.

Speaking Friday at a function to send-off 22 Zimbabwean students, who have been awarded $4.7 million worth of scholarships to study at American universities under the United States Achievers Program, Coltart said it's time the inclusive government started valuing education.

Foreign trips have gobbled up most of the revenue being generated in the country with President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai being urged to cut on travel as well as the number of people in their delegations.

He said the trend internationally was also disheartening as most governments spend more on defense and other portfolios than education.

United States Ambassador Charles Ray told the 22 students to return and serve their communities when they finish their studies.

Popular musician, Oliver Mtukudzi, who was the guest of honor, told the students never to forget where they are coming from, adding their communities should benefit from the knowledge and skills they are going to gain from the United States.

Julia Jenjeza is going to study mechanical engineering at Yale University. She praised the U.S. for the program that has afforded her and her colleagues a chance at getting the best education in the world.

The USAP program, which assists highly talented but under-privileged students, was launched 12 years ago, benefiting more than 250 Zimbabweans so far.

Commenting, United Kingdom-based academic Admore Tshuma said Harare needs to come up with policies and programs that will entice the students to return upon completing their studies.