by Francis Mukora
On the 18th April 2017, Zimbabweans celebrated 37 years of independence which came after close to a century of British colonial rule.
This year’s celebrations, held under the theme “Zim@37, Embracing ease of doing business for socio-economic development”, saw Zimbabweans from various walks of life converging at ward, district and provincial levels to celebrate yet another milestone. In Harare, the 60 000 capacity National Sports Stadium which was the venue for the national commemorations, was brimming with people who sang, danced, listened to speeches from the national leadership, including President Robert Mugabe and watched an entertaining football match pitting Zimbabwe’s two biggest clubs namely Dynamos and Highlanders.
In his address at the national commemorations in Harare, President Mugabe called for Zimbabweans, especially youths not only to enjoy, but to also jealously preserve the independence that followed the sacrifices of many lives including young men and women.
Yet according to the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU), the apex students’ representative body in Zimbabwe, students at various tertiary institutions across the country did not have much to celebrate since they cannot fully enjoy the academic freedoms that independence should have brought to them due to arrests, assaults, suspensions, expulsions and the removal of students grants scheme and subsidies which saw tertiary education costs skyrocketing beyond the reach of the majority.
“After thirty-seven (37) years of independence, access to quality education has proven to be mission impossible for the majority despite thousands of youths having paid the ultimate sacrifice in the liberation struggle fighting against a colonial system that denied them this inalienable right”, said ZINASU in their statement released on the eve of Independence Day.
Students at tertiary institutions around the country seemed to confirm the perceptions of their mother body, with most of them dismissing independence as a non-event given the current socio-economic and political malaise that the country finds itself enmeshed in.
“What independence is there to celebrate when we are struggling like this,” asked Michelle Mulingo, a final year journalism student at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST). “It means absolutely nothing and I think we were better-off colonized than now.”
Another final year political science student at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) who preferred anonymity said independence remains a myth to most “born frees” (a term used to refer to all people born after independence in 1980) as most youths cannot fully enjoy the academic freedoms. “In fact, with the harsh socio-economic conditions and the repressive political environment that we find ourselves in, independence means nothing except to a few who are enjoying its spoils.”
However, Brian Joe, a student at the Midlands State University (MSU) had a different view, arguing that youths, especially students at tertiary institutions should cherish and celebrate our independence because it is their peers who sacrificed their own lives and educational dreams to join the liberation struggle so that future generations such as ours can enjoy peace and tranquility.
“The least we can do to repay them is to celebrate the independence that came out of their sweat and blood,” concluded Joe.