By Tafadzwa Muranganwa
Every year thousands of young people in Zimbabwe apply for the reputable Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) through the Mandela Washington Fellowship and this year only 42 were selected.
Imagine how euphoric one can be to be a YALI fellow given the rigorous selection processes one have to endure. Such is the tale of Robson Chere, a 35-year-old rural teacher from Goromonzi who had to incur travelling expenses to the city for better access to the Internet services during the application process which is done online.
“In Zimbabwe, more than 1000 young leaders applied and only 42 were finally selected so I was elated to be representing the rural communities in the area of education at a global platform,” Chere told The Teacher Magazine in an interview.
“The application process was hectic due to limited access to Internet services in rural communities so I had to travel to Harare to access efficient Internet service in order to do the application online,” explained Chere, who is now a proud YALI 2019 fellow.
The Acturus Secondary School sciences teacher says one of the memorable moments he will cherish is being congratulated by the president of the United States of America, Donald Trump, for being selected for the 6-week leadership mentoring programme.
“On the first day of our arrival the President of America Donald Trump did sent a congratulatory message to me on being one of the people selected to represent my country and also highlighted the aim of the program which includes opportunity to strengthen my country’s relationship with others in the world, explore different ideas , networking and also celebrating culture and history different nations share,” added Chere, who is also the secretary general of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ).
As part of the activities for the YALI fellows, Chere was admitted at the Kansas State University and is already contemplating hooking up his fellow rural teachers with the institute so that they can be capacitated.
“I was admitted at Kansas State University and would like to link rural teachers who have challenges in capacity development with the university for some online education program. This will assist in professional development and quality education output,” he explained.
The rural teacher believes that the fellowship has helped him so much in his quest for improved rural education such that he has already established networks with local Kansas schools which are willing to partner him in opening community learning centres for vulnerable children in rural communities.
He was also able to learn from other African fellows and interacted with the Kansas National Educational Association, an organisation mainly focusing on educational issues and also met US senators and governors during the fellowship programme.
Robson Chere (second from left) poses for a photo with other participants
Coincidentally, Chere reconnected with his former primary school teacher, now a Professor, who inspired him to pursue education and is also a revered author on education in Africa.
“During my fellowship experience I also had an opportunity to reconnect with my former teacher, Morgan S Chitiyo, who is now a Professor here in America chairing the Department of Counselling, Psychology and Special Education at Duquesne University and has also written books on education in Africa including ‘A Pedagogical Approach To Special Education in Africa’.
“He transformed my life by nurturing and mentoring me on the importance of education in transforming a person’s lifestyle at a tender age when I was still doing grade 4 at Mayema Primary School in Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe (UMP), one of the poorly developed rural areas of Zimbabwe,” Chere narrated.
The YALI youth development programme is a brainchild of former US President Barack Obama and is designed to empower youths across all spheres of life to proffer solutions to challenges affecting their various communities.
So to Robson Chere, the journey to transform rural education in Zimbabwe begins now.