Zimbabwean students win international awards for mock court
A landmark team of Zimbabwean high school students who have become world and European moot court champions have won widespread acclaim in a country where the education system is plagued by insufficient funding, lack of materials and teacher strikes.
The 11-member Zimbabwean team, made up of nine girls and two boys aged 14 to 18 from different schools, were crowned world champions last month after winning the International High School Moot Court competition held online at the end of may. A team from New York came second in the competition where participants used fictional cases to simulate proceedings in the pre-trial chambers of the International Criminal Court.
Zimbabwe were also crowned European champions after beating the Netherlands in the final of the European high school moot court competition on July 3. It was the first time for Zimbabwe to take part in these two prestigious events.
Organizers of the European competition were so impressed with Zimbabwe’s performance in the International High School Moot Court competition that they invited the team to be the first African country to enter their competition, the team captain says , Ruvimbo Simbi.
“It’s surreal and extraordinary,” Simbi said after returning from Romania, where the European competition was taking place.
“When we were at the European Moot Court, a lot of people didn’t even know about Zimbabwe. We put Zimbabwe on the map, letting the world know about the incredible talent to be found in this country,” Simbi said.
The southern African country’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, in June invited the team to his official residence and presented them with US$30,000 in cash after their victory in the high school competition. He described the latest victory as “another victory for the pride of Zimbabwe”. The European Union Delegation to Zimbabwe also congratulated the team.
The winning team was warmly welcomed by hordes of school children, parents and supporters when they returned last week. The usually low-key airport was filled with cheering, singing and dancing as the team arrived displaying their awards. The team was treated to a welcome with red carpet, flowers and balloons. Some held signs reading “Welcome back champions”. Others played drums and marimba, a traditional instrument made of wooden bars played with mallets.
When Zimbabwe gained independence and majority rule in 1980, the new government vigorously expanded the country’s education system so that all black children could attend primary and secondary school. Previously, the education system catered primarily to the country’s white minority. Zimbabwe has achieved one of the highest literacy rates in Africa. But in recent years, the country’s debilitating economic problems have seen its education system deteriorate and be characterized by dilapidated infrastructure, shortages of essential learning materials such as books and frequent teacher pay strikes.
Despite these problems, Zimbabwe’s education system is still rated highly in Africa.
The victories in the international moot court trials “mean a lot to us Zimbabwean educators”, said Kudzai Mutsure, headmaster of the Dominican Convent, an all-girls Catholic school in Harare where some team members are enrolled.
“We take academic, sporting and cultural activities very seriously,” Mutsure said. “A student can thrive in any of these areas.” (AP) RUP RUP
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