Students Leading Change: Evaluating the SAIH Support for Zimbabwe and the Norway Campaign of 2009‐2014

About the publication

  • Published: May 2015
  • Series: --
  • Type: NGO reviews
  • Carried out by: Nordic Consulting Group
  • Commissioned by: SAIH
  • Country: Zimbabwe
  • Theme: Education and research
  • Pages: 56
  • Serial number: --
  • ISBN: --
  • ISSN: --
  • Organization: Students and Academics International Assistance Fund
  • Local partner: Student Solidarity Trust, Female Student Network, Zimbabwe National Student Union, Youth Empowernment Transformation Trust.
  • Project number: QZA-12/0822-36
NB! The publication is ONLY available online and can not be ordered on paper.


Attack on students in Zimbabwe started back in the late nineties. During the economic down fall, the student movement became one of the main critics of the governments, particularly raising their concern for corruption in the government. Students viewed the government as corrupt and not willing or able to allocate sufficient funding towards the education sector. Anti-privatization demonstrations gained momentum around the year 2000. Arrests, threats and kidnappings of students increased in this period. At that time the opposition party Movement for Democratic Change was formed, in which the student movement Zimbabwe National Student Union (ZINASU) was instrumental in setting up. In order to respond to the great number of arrested and expelled students, ZINASU set up a desk to respond to the needs of the affected students. In 2002 an organisation called Student Solidarity Trust (SST) was formed to work full time on support to victimized students. During the Unity Government (2009-2013), attacks on students were relatively low compared to previous years under the ZANU-PF government. SAIH has supported ZINASU in the late nineties, and occasionally up till 2010. However, since 2010 SAIH has given financial support to ZINASU on yearly basis.  SAIH has supported SST since its inception in 2002.

Few female students participate in student activism in Zimbabwe. The male students, especially at national level, mainly dominate student politics. The male students believe that the confrontational manner of ZINASU does not appeal to female students hence the female students do not participate in activism. Female Student Network (FSN) has excited for some time as a loosely network, but was formally established in 2011. SAIH started to support the initiative 2010. The financial support to all three organisations (ZINASU, SST and FSN) have been channelled through the Youth Empowerment Transformation Trust (YETT). In 2011 and 2012, SAIH information campaign in Norway focused on students’ rights. The long-term relationship with SST and ZINASU and their knowledge and data on violations of students’ rights were key when SAIH formulated and designed the objective for the campaign.


  1. Establishing the impact of the SAIH and SST support for victimized student activists in relation to their lives, jobs and social and political engagement and the gains and challenges in the fight for academic freedoms
  2. Establishing the effects that were unintended, either positive or negative


The evaluation team used a variety of data collection techniques including literature review, conducting of interviews and focus groups. In addition two surveys were conducted: one with beneficiaries and one of the campaign experience of 2011-2012.


The funding to the Zimbabwean organizations reviewed fits well within the programme goals. SAIH’s support has enabled and facilitated political and social participation by both creating environments that facilitate the participation of students and by ensuring that participants were protected if and when their participation in student protests encountered legal or academic repercussions. In addition SAIH has invested considerably in ensuring the engagement of female students. Overall the support has promoted the democratization of the educational process in Zimbabwe.

In general, the organizations under review are weak institutions. They lack solid administrative and leadership structures and in some cases have failed to adapt to the changing needs of students.The organizations funded tend to be reactive rather than proactive. Generally the organizations are often problem solving rather than looking forward to how they envisage their role in the Zimbabwean landscape long term and how their long-term vision can be achieved. Gender is an element that has thus far been largely categorised as meaning “women” and one that has generally remained part of the discussion without making clear headway in practical terms beyond the work of FSN. The work conducted by the partner institutions, particularly SST, has had a direct impact on the individual beneficiaries in that it provided them with immediate, and long term support, as well as legal and medical support to be able to survive and respond to the cases and charges brought against them.  However the long term cascading effect of the interventions is less clear. Similarly it is too early to see what the overreaching impact of the activities by FSN and ZINASU will be. In the absence of SAIH support all the organizations would be forced to reduce or end their activities/services. Few efforts to strategize a future without donor aid have been made. Aside from the benefit of the direct funding, SAIH has played a key role in providing a network for both the organizations (institutions) and for individual members. This network is claimed by respondents as having a clear value in terms of opening opportunities and also perspectives for the different organizations. The Norwegian experience is quite different from the Zimbabwean one and therefore expanding opportunities for south-south collaborations are an area of interest for partners in Zimbabwe.


  • SAIH should place focus on gender to ensure that the issue is more broadly understood and recognized by partner organizations.  To this end efforts should be made to have an expansive conceptualisation of gender and its implications.
  • SAIH should continue to use YETT as the interface for funding of the organizations in Zimbabwe, or another institution of equal calibre and capacity.  Working with YETT reduces the risk of financial malfeasance substantially and thereby enables SAIH to focus on activities funded rather than on mechanisms to ensure the funds are adequately used.
  • SAIH should consider developing assessment tools that assess the progress made by each institution as a result of the activities that are funded.  This could be Most Significant Change tools, but could also be other forms of self-assessment that would enable the organizations to reflect on the activities they undertake and on the impact that these have.

The principal recommendation is that SAIH consider modifying its funding model as it is currently applied in Zimbabwe:

  • Funding of activities: This element would remain from the current approach and hence secure immediate and visible impact on beneficiary individuals.
  • Structural focus: This element would require a long-term institution-building plan that follows an institution building road map where solid capacity development is included into the activities undertaken.  This should not solely focus on building the capacity of the individual holding a specific post, but rather focus on the development of training modules, procedures, rules, etc. This will ensure that overtime the organizational culture is better established around a sounds administrative and managerial system.
  • Interim direct support: Recognizing that building institutional capacity is a long-term process means that in the interim organizations will need direct support.  This support should be in the form of direct coaching of individuals working for the institution or the funding of staff positions.  Irrespective of the approach taken it is imperative that the individuals involved in this kind of support take on a support role rather than a leading role.  This type of engagement should enable the organization to carry on while it is becoming stronger institutionally.

Much of the activities noted under point 2 and perhaps also 3 can be fulfilled by YETT, but this means that YETT would need to move beyond being a financial administrative body to supporting capacity development.

Published 19.05.2015
Last updated 19.05.2015