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Zimbabwe Moves To Check Brain Drain

Unidentified mother and baby take a nap while begging in Harare
In a bid to stem the flight of skilled personnel from the country, the Zimbabwean government plans to expand a bonding program that forces graduates in certain professions to work for the government for a stipulated period.

The worsening economic crisis in the country continues to force skilled Zimbabweans to try to make a living elsewhere. In some cases professionals trained using state resources in universities, polytechnical schools, and colleges leave Zimbabwe soon after qualifying.

The government plans to stop all that by forcing graduates to work at state institutions for an unspecified period before they are free to choose who they want to work for.

A report in a state-controlled newspaper, the Sunday Mail, quotes Secretary for Education Washington Mbizvo as saying recommendations on which professions would be targeted have been submitted to the president's office.

The newspaper says as a result of the exodus of skilled personnel, most public institutions are now staffed by unqualified people.

Health is one of the areas hardest hit by the brain drain, and a bonding program has been in place for some time for professionals in this field.

Though the Sunday Mail report does not explicitly say what professions will be affected this time, it does say legal practitioners, engineers, and technicians from Zimbabwe are in demand in other countries.

Some estimates put the number of Zimbabweans working in South Africa, Botswana, Britain and other countries as high as three million. In a report published earlier this year by the Institute for Democracy in South Africa, health professionals from Zimbabwe gave the country's declining economic situation as the main reason they left.

Addressing a conference of nurses in 2002 President Robert Mugabe accused former colonial master Britain of coming in the dead of night to steal Zimbabwean professionals.