The Sad Story Of Zim Graduates Still Trapped In The 'When I Grow Up' Mantra

By Dr. Patson Dzamara

A few years ago I received a message from renowned businessman Mr. Nigel M. K. Chanakira asking me to meet him at his Karigamombe Office.

I didn’t know what exactly we had to meet over. When I arrived at his office, I noticed I was not alone. There were some familiar faces including Tommy Deuschle and Munyaradzi Gwatidzo.

He informed me that I had been nominated to be a part of the inaugural Global Shapers of the World Economic Forum in Zimbabwe. It was a huge honour.

The first item on the agenda was introductions. When my turn to introduce myself came, I did and soon after Mr. Chanakira interjected. “This guy is our own Chinua Achebe, when I grow up I want to be like you Doc, I am struggling to publish my first book but look at you, you are about to launch five at one go”, he said.

Everyone in the room burst into laughter but those words had a huge impact on me. First and foremost, those words were coming from a man I have deep regard for. A man I consider to be a bellwether, role model and leader endowed with great wisdom. Other than the fact that we are both ‘Highfields Boys’, Mr. Chanakira became an inspiration to me and I am sure many others because he blazed the trail in his terrain.

On the other hand, those words teleported back into time. They took me back to those days when we were in primary school and our teachers would often ask us what we wanted to be when we grew up.

I would always respond saying I want to be a pilot or soldier when I grow up. Of course, as I grew older I realised that my purpose revolved around leadership and I am happy on this trajectory.

What is unfortunate with our current situation is the fact most graduates are still having to say when I grow up because of the state our nation is in. They are qualified and proficient yes but they are still singing the same ‘when I grow up’ song.

When will they grow up?

They are still proffering the same answers a grade one pupil proffers when asked what they want to be when they grow up because all avenues for them to realise their dreams have been blocked. They are constricted to a second class life chiefly because of our Government’s leadership failure.

With that in mind, I wish to commend the pioneers of #ThisGown campaign. It’s a good campaign and I am plugging in. I encourage all Zimbabweans to plug in too. I was delighted to see photos of graduates playing street soccer along first Street yesterday. That is the way to go, well done guys. We must continue piling pressure.

I shall wear all my 6 graduation gowns and join you whenever you call for an activity. I shall also occasionally wear my gowns while attending to my day to day assignments. Let’s send a clear message together.

We want Zimbabwe to work for us. We don’t want to run away, we want to realise our dreams here. We want to build this country using our knowledge and expertise.

They have failed to create opportunities us. They have failed to buy the future for us. We are therefore demanding our national leaders to step aside and give us an opportunity to build our own future which they are failing to build.

We know we can, we will and we must.


We can’t sing this when I grow up song to our graves. Something has to give and we are taking a stand.

Dr. Patson Dzamara is an author, leadership coach and human rights activist who is writing in his personal capacity. For feedback, use email;