Back home I reflect on the visit. Zimbabwe is still in limbo, waiting to see whether there will be genuine improvements, politically, economically and socially. It will take time for confidence to re-emerge, and whilst the 2000s were a welcome period of small but vital growth for most African countries, Zimbabwe went backwards.
For most of its libraries, this has spelt an end to book buying funds, a loss of professional staff and a slow decline in infrastructure. Beyond that, the situation in schools is still a cause for great concern, and a generation of Zimbabweans, so well educated until recently, could well grow up illiterate. Teachers have left Zimbabwe and/or the profession in thousands due to poor pay and past harassment. Many of those that remain are poorly motivated. This term was unusual in that teachers were not on strike when it began. And even when the teachers are there, parents cannot afford the fees, and consequently children are constantly sent home from school. For the population as a whole, the inclusive power-sharing government and ‘dollarisation’ has brought (short-term?) improvement but there is still an air of repression and little prospect of the economy climbing significantly out of its dark deep hole. We can only hope that the bad times are at an end and that it’s not yet too late.