US embassy slams accusations of tribal bias towards Shona people

Question: What is the Embassy’s response to allegations of tribal bias towards Shona people in the selection of, and eventual awarding of, scholarships to Zimbabwean students by American colleges and Universities?

Answer: The United States Student Achievers Program (USAP) program is an educational initiative of the U.S. Embassy in Harare.

While the US Embassy itself does not offer scholarships, USAP assists highly-talented, economically-disadvantaged high school students to access higher education opportunities in the United States offered by top colleges and universities.

Since it began ten years ago, USAP has been replicated in 14 countries on four continents and has assisted over 200 students.

A committee comprising USAP students from previous cohorts as well as Embassy staff selects students who meet all of the following four criteria: academic excellence, demonstrated leadership potential, ethos of giving back to their community and economic disadvantage.

Each year, the Embassy receives more than 450 applications from Upper Sixth A level students for the 30 places available on the program from throughout Zimbabwe. We do not set quotas for geographic or ethnic distribution but seek the students who meet all four of our criteria. Neither do we discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, ancestry, sex, religion, age or disability nor use these criteria in our selection.

Application information to the USAP program is sent to all A Level high schools in Zimbabwe as well as NGOs who offer A level scholarships or who work with youth. EducationUSA staff in Harare and Bulawayo also conduct extensive outreach programs to high schools throughout the country.

The US Embassy is proud of the success of the USAP program and the impressive achievements of its participants. We believe strongly in the role USAP can play in educating highly talented youth from throughout the country to the meet the challenges of development facing Zimbabwe.

For more information on USAP, we encourage you to visit www.usapglobal.org

Issued by Tim Gerhardson, Public Affairs Officer, on January 8, 2010