“The U.S. government has provided one million dollars to a joint donor effort headed by UNICEF to provide textbooks to students in Zimbabwe. We are proud that as a result of these efforts there will now be a one-to-one ratio of books to primary school students, which has not occurred in Zimbabwe in a long time. All of our efforts reflect the fact that the United States government and its allies are committed to providing a culture of reading and learning,” said Ambassador Ray as he handed over a set of reference books worth US$1,000 to Mupfure Self Help College in Chegutu, Mashonaland West Province on Thursday.
Former Education Minister Dr. Fay Chung facilitated the book donation.
Accepting the donation, acting principal of the college, Edward Mpandaguta said, “Our training focuses on job creators rather than job seekers. These entrepreneurial skills are key in our efforts to accord our students an opportunity to realise the Zimbabwean equivalent of what in your country is referred to as the American dream.”
He said most students at the school are the children of ex-combatants, ex- refugees and detainees, and has gone further to recruit youth from foster homes, orphanages and disadvantaged children’s homes.
The book set, including a full Encyclopaedia Americana 29 volume set, as well as a dictionary, thesaurus and atlas, is one of 72 sets being donated to select high schools around the country.
“The book sets being donated throughout the country are a first step in this cooperation and assistance,” said Ambassador Ray.
A handful of placard-waving individuals calling for the lifting of targeted sanctions were present at the handover ceremony, which was also attended by students, school authorities, representatives of government from various ministries, and senior U.S. embassy officials.
Responding to a question by one of the demonstrators, Ambassador Ray said the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZDERA) of 2001 has had no effect on Zimbabwe’s economy and is not related to targeted sanctions. The demonstrator thanked the Ambassador for his response.
Ambassador Ray said the book donation is a result of a 2009 meeting between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, which included a discussion on how best the United States, could assist in rebuilding Zimbabwe.
Mupfure Self Help College, with a student enrolment of 326 students, was developed by the Zimbabwe Foundation for Education for Production (ZIMFEP) to deliver a comprehensive vocational and technical training program aimed at the disadvantaged. The college is also developing other programs, including HIV and AIDS prevention, the establishment of a secondary school for students in surrounding communities, and a clinic for the school and community.
Ray hailed founding members, ZIMFEP and staff at the college for improving the lives of war veterans and making a positive impact on all Zimbabweans.
“I am particularly aware of the difficulties that veterans and their families often face. I know that many of you and your relatives have faced and overcome many hardships during the years before and after independence in 1980,” said the U.S. Ambassador.
“Having institutions like ZIMFEP and the Mupfure Self Help College to provide solid education and training programs is essential to your future and to the future of Zimbabwe. These programmes honour the legacy of those who fought for Zimbabwe’s independence,” said Ray.
The book sets are funded through United States Agency for International Development, (USAID) to provide supplementary study materials that are otherwise nonexistent.