A history-making team of Zimbabwean high school students who became world and European moot court competition champions has been widely praised in a country where the education system is plagued by poor funding, material shortages and teachers’ strikes. is surrounded.
An 11-member Zimbabwe team of nine girls and two boys, aged 14 to 18, were crowned world champions last month after winning the International High School Moot Court competition held online in late May. A team from New York City finished second in the competition, where participants used fictional cases to simulate proceedings in the pre-trial chambers of the International Criminal Court.
Zimbabwe have now been crowned champions of Europe after beating the Netherlands in the final of the European Moot Competition for High School Students on 3 July. This was Zimbabwe’s first time competing in both the prestigious events.
Team captain Ruwimbo Simbi said that the organizers of the European competition were so impressed by Zimbabwe’s performance in the International High School Moot Court competition that they invited the team to become the first African country to enter their competition.
“It’s surreal and extraordinary,” Simbi said after returning from Romania, where the European competition was held.
“When we were on the European Moot Court, a lot of people didn’t even know Zimbabwe. We put Zimbabwe on the map, letting the world know about the amazing talent this country has,” Simbi said.
The South African country’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, invited the team to his official residence in June and presented them with $30,000 in cash following their victory in the high school competition. He described the latest win as “another victory for Zimbabwe’s pride”.
The European Union delegation in Zimbabwe also congratulated the team.
The winning team was given a rousing welcome by school children, parents and supporters last week. The subdued airport was usually filled with cheers, songs and dances when the team arrived to display their awards. The team was welcomed with red carpet, flowers and balloons. Some were holding placards that read, “Welcome Back Champion.” Others played the drums and the marimba, a traditional wooden bar instrument played using a mallet.
When Zimbabwe achieved 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. Earlier the education system worked mainly for the white minorities of the country. Zimbabwe achieved the highest literacy rate in Africa.
But in recent years, the country’s debilitating economic problems have seen its education system deteriorate and have been characterized by dilapidated infrastructure, lack of key teaching materials such as books, and repeated wage strikes by teachers.
Despite these problems, Zimbabwe’s education system is still rated highly in Africa.
“Victory at international moot court events means a lot to us Zimbabwean teachers,” said Kudzai Mutsure, head of the Dominican Convent, a girls-only Catholic school in Harare.
“We take academic, sporting and cultural activities very seriously,” Mutsure said. “A student can flourish in one of those areas.”