The United Kingdom is raiding its former colony Zimbabwe for key public sector workers: nurses, doctors and teachers, according to Zimbabwe-based writer, Ashley Simango.
The writer who got an honourable mention at the 2021 Arrude Jesuit Center For Ethics in Society High School Essay Competition, says it is “cruel for the UK to “poach” Zimbabwe’s key health sector personnel.
In an article first published by Al Jazeera, Simango whose writings on diplomacy and economics appeared in Newsweek, Fast Company, The New Arab and The Africa Report said:
This is cruel. It appears unstoppable. Yet it also captures a vicious cycle in which foreign aid meant to help countries like Zimbabwe strengthen their education and health systems is undermined by migration of trained talent to those very same donor nations.
More than 4,000 nurses and doctors have left Zimbabwe since February 2021. The UK is by far the destination of choice: data from the British Home Office in 2022 reveals that Zimbabwe is now in the top five skilled worker visa recipient countries.
This is a big drain. According to the Zimbabwe Medical Association, the country has a paltry 3,500 doctors for a population of 15 million people. Access to nurses is poor, too — just 2.6 per 1,000 people as of 2017, reveals the World Bank. In a key 1,000-bed public hospital, managers told reporters that services were crippled when dozens of nurses and doctors left for the UK in 2021.
Of course, the UK — like any other country — must look after its interests first. But the imbalance between a $3.2 trillion economy (the UK) and a $28bn economy (Zimbabwe) is such that the scramble for medical personnel isn’t a fair contest.
Simango added that despite the woes of the National Health Service (NHS), the UK still has 8.5 nurses per 1 000 people — more than three times the number in Zimbabwe. Added the writer:
And poaching talent from a country like Zimbabwe comes cheap. The UK spends £230,000 ($281,000) in training each doctor — much of which it saves when it imports trained and skilled medical professionals.
Simply put, at a time when healthcare workers are leaving the NHS in droves because of poor pay and conditions, the British government — instead of addressing their concerns — is plundering doctors and nurses from former colonies like Zimbabwe.
Her remarks come after the UK announced that from February 2023, Zimbabwe will join a select group of nations and territories whose educators will be eligible to get Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) which would allow them to work long-term as teachers in the UK.
Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa are the only other African nations on the list.
Teacher unions in Zimbabwe fear that many of the country’s 135 000 public school teachers might be tempted to take up posts in the UK.
For the last four decades, Zimbabwe has boasted one of Africa’s most impressive post-colonial educational outcomes with the World Economic Forum ranking it fourth-best on the continent in 2016.
Simango also puts the blame on the Zimbabwean government which she says is unable to pay doctors, nurses and teachers living wages, a factor pushing them to seek greener pastures.
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