This hash-tag? This hash-tag is how I choose to herald the future of Africa and other developing regions. I am known for being a little on the overdramatic side at times; I go above and beyond to make any piece of news exciting (even when it really deserves no hype). I am the type that will make noise about zebra migrations in the Kenya plains and start all sorts of hash-tags about anything. Fortunately for the world, they never trend! Can we agree though that when it comes to the story of a family called USAP, I have lease to use every hype word and hash-tag I can come up with? Can we also agree that the winds of change are finally blowing and USAP is the mother of this spectacular phenomenon?
The United States Achievers Program (USAP) was established in Zimbabwe’s Harare in 1999 with the aim of providing access to higher education for determined, bright, low-income youth, thus producing highly-skilled and liberally educated leaders for tomorrow’s Zimbabwe. Of course this mandate is spreading to other regions of the world. The fire is catching on in Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Jamaica, Mozambique and Ethiopia among several other countries in four different continents. Since its inception in 1999, USAP has helped more than 300 students get access to world class education at America’s top colleges and universities, and this year, 27 Zimbabweans left for the USA for their studies. In light of such achievements, the hash-tag USAP Rocks does not seem far-fetched now does it?
USAP fellows have been known to excel at their studies but the main mandate of the program is to produce well-rounded citizens of the world who make major differences and steer their countries towards brighter fates. Contrary to the popular belief that USAP is facilitating for a major brain drain under the guise of helping, the program actually does the opposite. The USA has millions of citizens as it is, citizens who can sustain its developmental exploits and keep the country growing. Assuming that it seeks to ground development in other states by taking all the good apples is actually foolhardy. If anything, hundreds of Zimbabweans (and lately young people from other countries) are gaining world-class education that are using in addressing problems back home. The US college curriculum has always had a practicality that makes it relevant in the 21st century and USAP is trying to expose as many people as possible to it. In the process, USAP is helping develop well rounded and learned leaders for Africa’s future and the world as a whole. Why would anyone argue with such logic?
Ask Alpha Ngwenya, Malvern Madondo, Sisasenkosi Mandi and many other USAP fellows what they want to do with their studies and they will tell you that they want to develop their local communities. With more USAP fellows graduating each year, the future gets brighter and brighter. Recently, the EducationUSA Advising Center at the United States Embassy in Zimbabwe launched a new initiative to connect students studying in the United States with local companies, hospitals and non-governmental organisations. The program which goes by the name Zimbabwe Career Connect has so far connected 18 students to 13 organisations in Zimbabwe. Both students and organisations stand to benefit from such initiatives. The idea, as Rebecca Zeigler Mano, EducationUSA Country Co-ordinator said was built on the basis of addressing the problems the students studying in the US face in getting professional contacts in Zimbabwe.
The story of a bright African girl who grew up in a deprived rural community need not end without a happy plot twist. The bright young boys who have so much potential need not live whole lives in the grasslands herding cattle. Things can change and with USAP, they already are. Many students continue to get help in accessing world-class and internationally recognised education through USAP. The impact cannot be overstated! Students and alumni are by no means sitting on the opportunities they are getting too. They just keep rocking the world with their major waves of budding influence. USAP rocks the world in the now; I dare not imagine the influence in a few decades. Maybe the next Kofi Annan is among these bright young minds? Maybe the next big idea is in one of these youths oozing with excitement to meet new challenges in the US and address the problems back home? I cannot tell for sure but all I know is #USAP Rocks.
(Header Image Credit: EducationUSA Zimbabwe)