The Africa University Young Scholars Research Team (YSRT) recently attended the National Council for Black Studies 44th Session held from the 11th to the 14th of March 2020 in Atlanta Georgia, USA. Tendai P. Zwidza, Charlene C. Tirivavi and Farayi L. Mwashita from two of the university’s three colleges (CHANS and CSSTHE) presented papers on topics ranging from the state of higher education in Africa, food security and the implementation of environmental legislation on the continent. Led by Dr Zanele Furusa, a lecturer and Head of Environmental Studies and Natural Resource Management Department in the College of Health Agriculture and Natural Sciences at Africa University, the team performed remarkably well not only displaying refined research techniques and methodologies in the dissection of some of Africa’s contemporary issues, but also displaying great poise and knowledge as they were exposed to the world of academic peer review and the importance of creating new knowledge especially that generated by young Africans.
The YSRT is an initiative spearheaded by Dr. Furusa who fundraises for students to attend research symposiums across the world and also engages parents and sponsors to meet travel and accommodation costs. Africa University students have been attending the NCBS Session each year since 2015. Leading by example, Dr. Furusa presented a paper that touched on disaster preparedness in Africa with a focus on Zimbabwe. This particularly topical issue bears tremendous relevance especially as the continent continues to ramp up efforts to reduce COVID- 19 infections and mortality rates. Her paper titled, “Disaster management, are we doing enough planning? The case of Cyclone Idai in Zimbabwe” put forth that disasters seem to have gone beyond mankind’s ability to respond adequately especially in the context of the poor. She also took advantage of the current global battle of the pandemic COVID-19 to emphasize the need for nations to review their disaster management strategies and investment in key buffer areas such as the health sector that are usually the worst affected. Dr. Furusa also chaired a session on issues pertaining to Zimbabwe and a book was awarded to her in recognition of her contributions to seeing more youth engaging in research. She said, “This conference is a platform where knowledge is imparted. It is also a place for networking and interacting with scholars from different backgrounds. We need this as a school and as a country. Students need to take part in this amazing platform. Why wait for 3 years’ dissertation time to do research. Why can’t it be a culture we stay with?”
Student researcher Farayi Mwashita said, “YSRT is a visionary club providing a stimulating environment and I felt I could achieve anything with this team as long as I did not give up!”
Tendai Zwidza summed up the experience saying, “As a first timer to the USA I could not have been more excited and blessed to have an opportunity to go and have fun, expand my academic knowledge and network with all kinds of people. I was nervous and excited at the same time to be speaking to people, and not knowing the questions they would ask. When I presented there were other fellow Zimbabweans which added pressure knowing they would definitely have questions, but I gathered all my courage and delivered my presentation well and answered every question. NCBS gave me the opportunity to interact with other black communities, realizing their struggles as well. The YSRT opened my eyes to see that there is still more to be learnt and research is the way to learn it given how it makes everything practical.”