By Yolanda Ndlovu – Harare, October, 2012: America’s flagship international exchange initiative, the Fulbright Program, celebrated 30 years of activity in Zimbabwe on October 4, 2012. Minister of Science and Technology Development Heneri Dzinotyiweyi, a Fulbright alumnus, praised the program for creating conducive environments in which peace can flourish. Fulbright was founded in 1946 as a way to promote mutual understanding by offering scholarships to pursue PhD study in the U.S.
“The message I learned [is] wherever you see conflict, it’s vital that people on both sides of the divide must meet. When there is a lot of collaboration, the conflict tends to have a better resolution,” said Dzinotyiweyi during the Fulbright 30th anniversary reception. Minister Dzinotyiweyi was Zimbabwe’s first Fulbright Scholar in 1982. He received a research grant to the State University of New York (SUNY) – Buffalo to study mathematics. The Minister shared his experiences as a Fulbright participant.
“These kinds of programs are vital for government – the experience, the institutions themselves — opened doors everywhere,” he said. “Real life is facilitating people to interact, giving exposure to young people, and giving a reasonable basis to those who are really interested in matters of development to move forward.”
The commemoration was attended by over 100 members of the Zimbabwean academic and thought-leader community, many of whom had participated in the Fulbright program. Zimbabwe boasts roughly 200 Fulbright alumni, who now work in government, universities, industry and non-governmental organisations. Distinguished alumni include Minister of State in the Organ of National Healing, Professor Sekai Masikana Holland, who also hailed the program and how she benefited from it.
“The question here is the importance of global connectivity in healing Zimbabwe going forward,” Minister Holland said. “I think young people in Zimbabwe can strengthen higher education exchange between and among individuals here and with people outside.”
Globally, the Fulbright Program operates in more than 155 countries worldwide and has provided approximately 318,000 participants with the opportunity to study, teach, or conduct research in each others’ countries and exchange ideas. Approximately 8,000 grants are awarded annually.
The event was hosted by the U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Section and the Zimbabwe-United States of America Alumni Association (ZUSAA). It included an afternoon seminar entitled, “Bringing Experience Back to Zimbabwe: Next Steps in Higher Education & Your Career,” and an evening reception at the Celebration Centre in Harare to honor and connect returned alumni from various U.S.-sponsored programs, including the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program. The Humphrey Program brings accomplished professionals from developing countries to the United States for one-year, non-degree mid-career programs and related professional activities.
“Alumni that are thinking of coming back should really think about how their skills can link in to what is going on, not just in the immediate transitional period, but afterwards,” urged Minister Holland.
Lecturer and Sociology Unit Head at the Africa University and Fulbright Program graduate, Dr Fay Hodza, echoed these sentiments when he spoke to university students, professors and administrators in the afternoon seminar. “My focus now,” he said, “is more on developing structures that will strengthen the quality of the educational experience of our young people on the continent.”
The U.S. Embassy Charge d’Affaires David Abell applauded the program, sharing a few of the founder’s (Senator William J. Fulbright) philosophies with the audience. “It’s all about the people. These exchanges bring people of different cultures together to broaden horizons in every direction. Without overstating it, it truly does change our perspective and grows not only individuals, but communities and nations,” he said.
There are currently 18 Zimbabwean Fulbright scholars pursuing PhD study in the U.S. in a wide range of fields such as natural resources management, virology, biotechnology, applied mathematics, media and journalism, and population studies.