University scholarships: A structural take on diplomacy
For more than a year now, my university in the Netherlands has been hosting a number of students from Zimbabwe with a scholarship paid for by the Dutch government. All of the students (by now they are 17) were suspended from Zimbabwean universities for involvement in the opposition movement. Some of them were active in critical student movements or members of the opposition party MDC, others were involved in other civil society organisations that were critical of the government.
A good diplomatic move in the long run. In the Netherlands, the students are able to obtain a university degree despite their suspension, and once they return home they will be well-prepared to assume responsible position in a “post-Mugabe” Zimbabwe. As for the Dutch government, this programme equips them with an excellent relationship with the opposition movement and possibly with future leaders.
Besides these international interests for the Netherlands, the programme also has an impact on the university. On campus, the students contribute to an international climate and cause some interesting encounters. In class, human rights become concrete issues and not merely an abstract topic of political theory. The Zimbabwean students bring examples from a reality that the other students would have no access to otherwise. They are actively involved in organising public presentations and debates on the issue of human rights in Zimbabwe, and they establish contacts with expat political movements of Zimbabweans in Europe. It’s a good piece of diplomacy.