Interview with Winter School Participant Ernest Chikope

We recently spoke with Ernest Chikope to learn more about his experience at the Winter School on Human Rights facilitated by RWI Harare and its academic partners. Ernest was one of the participants who took part in the school which ran for two weeks in July of 2023. A 26-year-old law graduate of the Midlands State University, Ernest’s main area of interest is family law, around which he centred his dissertation earlier this year. He currently works part-time in the retail sector.

Following the completion of his LLB from the Midlands State University, Ernest participated in RWI’s Winter School in Zimbabwe. During the eventful, information-packed two weeks, he recalled learning about the ins-and-outs of human rights and their multifaceted linkages to other focus areas. These included war relations, minority rights, and corruption. In the discussions and debates that took place, Ernest and other participants referred to current local examples and cases to further their knowledge and put their skills into real-life practice.

Ernest looks back positively on his two weeks at the Winter School –

‘It was a beautiful experience because I met a lot of people of my age from different universities – great minds in one place, discussing the emerging aspects of human rights’.

‘We had friends from Lund as well – I learned quite a bit of Swedish!’ Ernest commented on the fact that the school also allowed for a cultural exchange and a bonding experience, which has left him with a lasting connection to people around Zimbabwe as well as people from Sweden. He learned about how Sweden works, socially, politically, and culturally. Later, Zimbabwean participants convened post-Winter School to deepen their reflections. It was an opportunity for international networking, and Ernest remains in touch with his fellow students to this day.

The experience was not all learning and hard work though – Ernest recounted that the group experienced a memorable elephant encounter during one of their excursions. Furthermore, they enjoyed a farewell dinner together with the facilitators of the school.

A grand highlight for Ernest was the possibility to sharpen some of his professional and academic skills. The intense daily sessions at the school meant that critical thinking skills were continuously in use. Though the experience was challenging, the variety of topics for discussion provided for a fruitful learning opportunity. Moreover, his people skills were refined with the aid of the new connections he made.

During the Winter School, a debating competition also took place. Ernest viewed this as an opportunity to enhance his public speaking skills and build upon his prior university experience. This strengthened his abilities further.

Finally, the opportunity meant that Ernest could ensure whether this field is what he wants to pursue in the future –

‘I wanted to see if I’m really interested in human rights … I think [the experience] has shaped my career path and I can safely say, yes, human rights is definitely what I want to venture into now’.

Confident with his new knowledge, Ernest is certain about continuing down a path of human rights work. Ernest eagerly anticipates transitioning into a legal role, armed with the skills and knowledge gained during the Winter School. He has added the experience to his CV, and found it to be very beneficial in his current job search.


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