Career Development in Zimbabwe

Contributed by Pardingtone Nhundu


The mere utterance of the term Career Guidance in Zimbabwe brings a number of assumptions in many people’s heads. For students it’s another subject to be done; for parents it’s a worthy cause for their children but most cannot invest in it or pay for it; for teachers this is the panacea to students exploiting their passion; and for development practitioners this is the springboard to national development.  In a unified voice to the informed, Career Guidance becomes the cornerstone to passion-driven workers and the hub for development.

Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia before its 1980 Independence, is a landlocked country found in Southern Africa. Zimbabwe’s educational system has been a darling for many years regionally and Africa-wide leading to a 90.1% literacy rate in 2013 making Zimbabwe 1st in Africa in terms of literacy rate. This was because the new black-led government invested in education and made basic education free at that time. Hence the education culture has been riddled with a blind ladder of systematic education. The opportunities that the educated black people encountered made everyone believe that, to succeed in life one was supposed to pass Grade 7, ZJC, “O” Level, “A” Level, and proceed to University. Technical subjects and courses at the Tertiary Level were, and somehow are still, considered as second rate to University Degrees – which is not true.

Educational System and History

Education in Zimbabwe has been instrumental in skills development. The literacy rate in Zimbabwe is high, at 91.4% (UNESCO, 2009). For instance, the literacy levels of 15–24 year olds rose from 95 to 98% between 1992 and 1999 (UNDP, 2003). This is attributed to the emphasis put on education by government before and after independence. The government’s investment in education was predominantly inspired by Black Empowerment and the need to step into white-collar professions which were privy of a white minority group. The great efforts led a national rise in literacy rate, regional and international recognition of the Zimbabwean Academic output.

Career Guidance in Schools

The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare has the responsibility for Career Guidance and Counseling for Secondary and High Schools in Zimbabwe. Thus, every other organization interested in contributing to career development within the school system must be given a clearance by the Ministry of Labor. In the work I have done in the area of career development in Zimbabwe, I am convinced these key areas should be invested in:

  1. School Career Counselors – these individuals are solely responsible with career counseling for students in schools. The prevailing situation is that teachers who already have a challenging teacher-student ratio are expected to invest more time in Career Counseling. Hence Career Counseling for students is not done properly, let alone professionally.
  2. Professional Course on Career Counseling – home grown Career Counseling Professional Certificates which are also internationally recognized need to be produced. Currently, Career Counseling courses are provided as a single course in various Teacher Institutions across the country. Psychologists wanting to be Career Counselors further do online courses with international institutions so as to be Career Counselors. Thus the need for Professional Courses on Career Counseling is gap that has to be filled instantly.
  3. Tripartite Agreement – teachers, career counselors, and students should be focused on similar outcomes – career path development for the student. At the moment, students have no idea of the importance of career counselors. Qualified Career Counselors are mostly in private institutions; they need to be paid for services provided. However, most parents and family leaders have no idea of the importance of career path development and, because of economic instability and lack of job security, either fail to invest in career path development or force careers that are currently high paying on their children, siblings, or relatives.

Career Guidance in Workplaces

Workplace career development is also known as lifelong career management (Boyd et al., 2014). According to Boyd, lifelong career management involves three key activities, including being laid off, defining success, and continuing to be engaged as an employee.

In most developed countries the Human Resources department is the one with the responsibility to research areas related to investing in their workforce. They provide guidance about who to hire, when, why, and how. After the individual is hired, the company invests in further developing the employee so that the individual is fully engaged with the work s/he is doing. Engaged employees learn to define both personal success and company success, seeking to achieve both in balance.

Such institutional investment is more attainable in an environment with viable economic opportunities. Zimbabwe’s current economic shenanigans continue to threaten the existence of certain careers, the maintenance of current careers, and even the emergence of viable careers. Fewer and fewer institutions are investing in employee development; work-related counseling is not as common in Zimbabwe as it is in developed countries; and employees are investing in their own development while hanging on to jobs they absolutely dislike and have no interest in. Retrenched/laid-off employees have no follow-up on how they are responding to their lay off and there is no clear pathway to reemployment. Although many people are qualified, their qualifications may be misrepresented (e.g., a Sociology major graduate’s CV may be edited to suit applying for work as a waitress). Individuals with strong CVs may be rejected as over-qualified for available jobs.  Many graduates are mis-employed, with no opportunity to practice the skills they developed in college. A few graduates have no idea why they picked the degree programs they completed, so they return to college to try again. Career pioneers continue to emerge and struggle to gain recognition for their unique careers; it can be challenging to provide a decent meal for their families with what they earn in non-traditional jobs.

Career guidance and counseling in Zimbabwe has been primarily focused on the Career Development of High School students. The schools in high-income neighborhoods manage to invest in Career Path Development for their children but schools in low income neighborhoods fail to invest in this magnificent service for their children. Parents and teachers have varied opinions on student development and suitable career options; students in Zimbabwe, just as in many other places in the world, think they know better than their parents or teachers – however, many students are actually clueless about career selection. Most importantly, in a country where jobs are uncertain and “contemporary” careers such as Stand-Up Comedy are still emerging and encountering a lot of obstacles, career development become the most important of all educational and life foundations.


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Literacy rate:


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