The life history experiences of Zimbabwean students studying pre-registration nursing in a UK university
A considerable number of students undertaking pre-registration nurse education in the UK are international students from Zimbabwe. The aim of this study is to listen to their narratives in order both to understand their experiences and to make suggestions for improving their educational management. The context from which the Zimbabwean students have migrated is discussed, outlining the current Zimbabwean educational and health care systems; prevailing social mores, religion and kinship ties; and the more recent sharp economic downturn in the Zimbabwean economy and the effects of the prevalence of HI VIA IDS in Southern Africa. Nine pre-registration nursing students from Zimbabwe attending one UK university, and one further respondent who had qualified as a nurse and was practising in the same locality were recruited to take part in life-history interviews. The interviews covered experiences in Zimbabwe leading to migration to the UK; accounts of arriving in the UK and challenges experienced in starting the course, working in health care settings as placements, and becoming reconciled to life in the UK. Factors prompting migration to the UK are reported to include the emphasis on education as a means of social mobility; the economic crisis, and the disruption of family ties by the HIV epidemic. Educational courses for nursing are the means to prevent their aspirations for professional occupation floundering on current economic and political instability in Zimbabwe, rather than a positive career choice. The reliance of the NHS on internationally-recruited students to cover shortfalls in labour in the UK contributes to this process. Experiences upon arrival in the UK include problems with visas, immigration officials and banking facilities. Zimbabwean students find it challenging to adapt to self-directed learning styles, to combine studying in a context without their familiar domestic help, and under financial pressure to remit monies home. They also report experiences of racism both in the college and in placement settings. Despite these challenges the next step seems more likely to be to work in nursing in the UK and to bring family to join them when financially possible. These life-histories have implications for the educational management of Zimbabwean nursing students at the level of the University, the University International Office, the School of Nursing and Midwifery, the individual nurse tutor, and the local NHS placement settings. They also have implications for the future prospects of Zimbabwe after the Mugabe regime.