• Zimbabwe

Overview

This virtual faculty-led program is an exploration of culture, community, identity politics & social justice in the context of Zimbabwe. Students will examine the country’s colonial history & investigate the impact(s) it has had on the evolution of Zimbabwean society.

This sample program can be tailored to fit the faculty leader's needs, or we can design an individualized program for a particular focus.

Highlights

  • Become acquainted with Zimbabwe’s key social issues & the social justice movements formed in response.
  • Study concepts such as individualism & collectivism, giving them the tools to comparatively discuss pertinent social issues on a more global scale.
  • Get to know the country, its people & their culture(s) through a number of culturally-immersive activities & engagements with local community members.

Sample Itinerary

Day 1: Introduction & Orientation

Students will engage in introduction & orientation sessions followed by a worldview workshop & discussion session on "The Danger of a Single Story." Stories are often defined by how they are told, who tells them & in reference to others heard on the same topic. If a person repeatedly hears a consistent narrative about a nation, for example, that is what the nation becomes in that person's eyes. This session aims to highlight how a single storyline can create stereotypes & narrow the world view of an individual if he chooses to accept those stereotypes.  

Day 2: Local Language, Community & History

To enhance students’ intercultural communication skills, they will receive language lessons in Shona – one of Zimbabwe's national languages. Following, they will participate in an interactive marketplace challenge. Students will watch videos in Kiswahili from a selection of vendors. They will then be tasked with purchasing ingredients for a Zimbabwean recipe, within a set budget. Students will observe as the facilitators visit the marketplace & make the purchases on their behalf. All goods purchased will be donated to local community projects. To end the day, they will listen to the first half of a two-part talk on the history of Zimbabwe, focused on its colonization, liberation & resulting independence.

Day 3: Zimbabwe History & Culture

Students will receive the second half of a two-part talk on the history of Zimbabwe from pre-colonial times to present day. This talk will highlight key periods of change in Zimbabwe & how these changes affected the Zimbabwean people; provide insight into the political, economic & historical background of Zimbabwe; & build a base from which to understand its culture. After learning more about post-independence Zimbabwe, students will participate in an interactive workshop focused on how the country's history has affected the evolution of its culture.

Day 4: Ubuntu & its Impact on Agricultural Development

Students begin the day with a Lecture & interactive session on the concept of Ubuntu. Ubuntu – directly translated to mean "humanity,” but also meaning "I am because we are" – is a concept widely understood within Southern Africa. Embodying elements of a collectivistic world view, the term has seen a resurgence in recent years as it was widely used by Desmond Tutu, the chairperson of South Africa's Truth & Reconciliation Commission. 

Later, students will participate in a virtual visit to a farm, followed by a Q&A on the effect of collectivism on agricultural development. In Zimbabwe, the majority of the population lives an agricultural lifestyle in rural areas. The staple crop is maize. With an average yield of 1-1.5 tons per hectare, Zimbabwe's production is 1/10 of the US yield. A representative of a local organization specializing in sustainable agriculture techniques will talk about how they are teaching farmers to increase yields to 5+ tons per hectare. These techniques have the potential to transform lives by multiplying the household income fourfold.

Day 5: Individualism vs. Collectivism

The day will begin with a talk about individualistic & collectivistic societies. Having explored these two ideologies, each student will then examine a relevant Zimbabwean justice issue through the lens of one of the perspectives, then debate the merits of the two approaches. 

A virtual visit to the Chiweshe district will provide insight into the traditional leadership structures & justice systems of rural Zimbabwe. It will also highlight key aspects the culture & the role that collectivism plays in people’s day-to-day lives. Following, a farmer & community leader in the Chiweshe rural district will host an interactive discussion about rural customs, leadership structures & traditional practices.

Day 6: Social Justice

Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) has endured prolonged seasons of injustice including, but not limited to, the colonial era, the liberation struggle & subsequent dictatorship. Freedom of speech & other basic human rights cannot be assumed to this day. The morning’s talk will include an exploration of the most pertinent justice-related issues facing the country.

Next, students will learn about the #ThisFlag movement then discuss what social justice looks like in our country. The movement started spontaneously in response to a video filmed by Evan Mawarire in 2016, 36 years into the dictatorship of Robert Mugabe. It was largely a response to continued economic collapse, oppression & a lack of freedom of speech. Evan has faced repeated arrest & lived in exile, but the movement mobilized as many as a million people on to Zimbabwean streets & ironically resulted in the government banning the sale & carrying of its own national flag.

Day 7: The Effects of Law & Activism on Social Justice

The law is often considered the rule of thumb when approaching justice issues. However, laws, in their rigid nature, are polarizing. They can either encourage change or prohibit it. In fact, laws often clash with issues of social justice. The morning’s lecture & interactive discussion, led by human rights lawyer & activist David Coltart, will highlight both the usefulness & shortcomings of using the law as a catalyst for social justice.

Later, students will participate in a breakaway session focused on activism as a tool for social justice. Zimbabwe is a country experiencing a severe state of economic collapse & constitutional crises. With the government heavily dependent on debt finance & aid, activism is a vital tool in exposing injustice & pressuring the state. We will explore the history of activism as a tool for positive change, as well as consider its role within the current politico- & socio-economic state.

Day 8: Gender Expectations & Equality

The day will begin with a facilitated panel discussion followed by a Q&A on cultural gender expectations & gender equality. Zimbabwe is a paternalistic society particularly in rural contexts. Citizens live under immense cultural pressure to conform to gender roles, particularly given the collectivistic outlook of the majority of Zimbabwean society. We will examine these expectations & the challenges faced when someone deviates from a social norm.

After a break, the students will discuss the goal of gender equality & consider the question, “What does gender equality look like for everyone?” The United Nations explains that “Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous & sustainable world.” Students will examine issues of gender inequality in a global & Zimbabwean context, using the UNs defined targets for & indicators of equality.

Day 9: Reflection & Peer Assessment Exercise

At three points during the program, facilitators will ask questions that encourage students to process their experiences, articulate their thoughts & feelings, as well as internalize any lessons or moments of growth.

Day 10: Student Presentations & Wrap Up

Students will identify one social justice issue in Zimbabwe & propose a remedy given the context of history & culture.