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Address by the PM Tsvangirai at the graduation ceremony for students in the United States Achievers Programme (USAP)
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
June 30, 2011

Your Excellency, Ambassador Charles Ray, Public Affairs Officer Sharon Hudson Dean, Educational Advisor and USAP coordinator Rebecca Ziegler Mano, Senior Government officials here present, Parents, Guardians, Students, Ladies and Gentlemen

It gives me great pleasure to have been invited to this very important graduation ceremony.

I would like to commend the government of the United States of America, through their local Embassy, for putting education and knowledge as a top priority.

As education is universally recognized as one of the most fundamental building blocks for human development and poverty reduction, I decided to forego some of the many engagements that had been arranged for me so that I could honour this great gathering.

Education, in the largest sense is any act or experience that has a formative effect on the mind, character, or physical ability of an individual.

In its technical sense, education is the process by which society deliberately transmits its accumulated knowledge, skills, and values from one generation to another.

For nations it creates a dynamic workforce and well-informed citizens able to compete and cooperate globally - opening doors to economic and social prosperity.

It is key to attaining the Millennium Development Goals.

The Millennium Development Goals set a more realistic, but still difficult, deadline of 2015 when all children everywhere should be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.

Towards achieving this milestone, my Government through the Ministry of Education worked with cooperating partners and raised 13 million textbooks for our 5 500 primary schools countrywide.

But education alone cannot make up for the rigidities of life, because you who are graduating today would not have made it without the support, assistance and guidance from family friends, lecturers and most importantly the people of the United States of America, through their local Embassy here in Harare.

Thus, this gathering today is to honour 31 Zimbabwean students who have earned scholarships worth a total of US$6.9 million to pursue further studies at highly selective colleges and universities in the United States through the U.S. Student Achievers Program (USAP).

I am informed that the 31 students whom we are sending off today completed a year-long programme run by the U.S. Embassy to assist them in the university application and scholarship process. USAP is designed to assist academically talented but economically disadvantaged students.

This is why, Your Excellency, I would like to commend your Government for extending help to our disadvantaged yet intelligent children.

This gesture that you have extended is a seed that will germinate and multiply into many more schooled Zimbabweans.

To you, the graduands, I say that you must all realize that this is a great opportunity you have been offered.

It is an opportunity that you must exploit for the benefit, not only of yourself, but of your parents, relatives and most importantly, your country.

In all cultures around the world, people are confirming one simple and enduring truth: whether in family, business, finance and politics, from giant multinationals to working bees, more is achieved more efficiently, and to greater effect, when we work together.

When partnerships work, they build sustainable, well-managed and efficient human services. In short, they can transform a system. It is one such great partnership that has helped you to this day and that has opened this great door in front of you.

You are Zimbabwe's torchbearers wherever you are going. The whole nation counts on you. However, you must be aware that this puts a huge responsibility over your shoulders, the responsibility to learn new technologies and to learn new cultures, which you will have to impart unto others upon your return.

I am heartened to learn that USAP students, who went before you, who have completed their studies and training have begun returning to Africa and some specifically to Zimbabwe. I hope you will all do the same at the end of your learning process. Zimbabwe needs the new knowledge that you will bring back home.

It is our belief that when you bring back this knowledge, it will help cure the brain drain that has so militated against development in Zimbabwe.

We hope that some of you will employ your newly acquired skills to develop local schools, colleges and universities. While we thank our co-operating partners for helping you to leave the country for further studies, this should not mean the abdication of duty by the Government.

The Government must continue to improve the standards of learning institutions in the country, improve the standards of earnings of teachers and lecturers and this will help create a conducive learning environment for our children.

While I am heartened by this gesture by the American people, my vision is to create world class learning institutions so that our children do not have to go outside the country to study, but can only do so as a choice not because we do not have globally competing facilities.

We want Zimbabwe to reclaim its status as a referral centre for education in the sub-Saharan Africa and this vision will be supported by a strong education oriented budget underpinned by a growing economy in a democratic environment. This is possible.

As politicians we will ensure that we address the political problem so that the environment becomes conducive for education, for business and for investment.

This leadership gap had taken Zimbabwe back to the primitive ages were brother rose up against brother and where education was a preserve for a few rich elite. This is not the Zimbabwe that we envisage. Over the last two years we have arrested this decline in educational standards.

I am sure that when you finish your studies in the US, we will have found a lasting solution to the political crisis we are currently going through.

We have already started this work by working on a new, democratic constitution. We have also started work on a roadmap towards free, fair, democratic and violence-free elections so that we resolve the crisis of leadership and legitimacy that we face.

You must know that as your Prime Minister, I attended a humble primary school in rural Buhera and I did not have the great opportunity afforded to you today.

So go and be good students, respect your hosts and work hard. Exhibit the true Zimbabwean spirit, that of hospitality and hard-work. Be vigilant and wise.

I say to you be wise as serpents but harmless as doves.

I thank you.

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