Making a difference to human rights in Zimbabwe
The Postgraduate Laws is a popular programme with students from around the world. In the first part of our series we interview Anthony Shuko Musiwa, studying with the support of a Cannon Collins Scholarship.
Anthony Shuko Musiwa is from Zimbabwe. He released a publication on the handling of child sexual abuse by Zimbabwean courts last year. He also received the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) Annual Scholarship Award towards research at the University of Bristol.
What appealed to you about the PG Diploma in Laws/ LLM?
I applied to this program mainly because of its relevant and excellent content and global reputation.
I have previously trained in social work and international development which equipped me with an in-depth theoretical knowledge, extensive practical experience and a reflective understanding of the socio-economic and political issues facing Zimbabwe particularly and sub-Saharan Africa at large.
This enabled me to be an effective social change agent in the lives of the orphaned and vulnerable children and adolescent girls and young women affected by HIV and AIDS and poverty whom I work with. However, with time and upon assuming more managerial and leadership responsibilities in my career, I realized that there were situations where my ability and capacity as a practitioner were limited.
For example, every day I would be confronted with cases involving human rights violations related to violence, abuse, neglect and exclusion which require interventions of a largely legal and justice nature beyond the social protection we provided. In those situations, I felt helpless, and there is no worse feeling than to know that some people look up to you for assistance or guidance but you cannot help them because you simply do not have any ‘idea’ of how to do that.
I made the deliberate decision to equip myself with a legal qualification that has strong human rights undertones which would, ultimately, help me to be a better helper. Simultaneously, I wanted to undertake a program that would allow me to continue working and have time for my family and others in my social network. Besides, I felt that studying while working would enable me to continuously implement – in “trial-and-error” form – the legal knowledge and skills I would be acquiring.
The program that ultimately fit all these ‘demands’ turned out to be University of London’s LLM program. Since I did not have any prior training in law, the program would allow me to start from the PG Diploma level and work myself up to the LLM where I am now at.
How did you organise your study around your work and what is your most useful study tip?
Inevitably, studying for this program requires a lot of on-going discipline and organization on my part.
Balancing all this turned out to be far much easier than I had initially thought. The program allows me to study at my own pace and to take any number of courses depending on the burden of my work and life responsibilities at any given time.
The maximum time required to complete this program is five years and, for me, that is far too generous. What I did is develop a study plan in which I commit myself to study for at least two hours daily from Monday to Friday.
My weekends are for my family and friends, unless I need to do a make-up session for a period(s) I would have missed during the week. Because I have never studied law before, I like to take my modules sequentially and gradually so that I understand key concepts and issues before progressing to the next ones.
What is the best thing about being a distance learning student?
It enables me to work and study simultaneously and, therefore, have the chance to immediately implement my newly-acquired legal knowledge and skills into my everyday work.
I do not see the relationship between my studies and work as sequential but, rather, as essentially concurrent. I am able to study at my own pace and choose my own courses which are relevant to my work and career interests.
I also like and appreciate the fact the University of London administration and course conveners are very supportive. I cannot count the numerous times I have approached them with concerns about my studies and life in general, and they have been quick to support me accordingly. Very few distance learning programs in the world have such support mechanisms. This is one of the best learning experiences I have ever had.
What do you intend to do next once you have completed your studies?
I am confident that successful completion of this LLM will be a major hallmark of my career. Most importantly, it will position me at another level of responsibility and operation where I can continue to make even more significant contributions to the lives of children, young people and women in Zimbabwe particularly and sub-Saharan Africa in general.
In the long term, I am also considering lectureship, though on a part-time basis. I typically want to teach classes that focus on children’s rights, gender and the socio-economic and political development contexts. Part of this plan requires me to undergo doctoral-level training, and that is something that I have begun actively working on.
As a practitioner, educator and researcher, and if I can do my work right, I can have a far bigger impact on the social and development issues I care about most than I can solely through my own endeavours. Ultimately, if I can help reduce those problems I care about in some small way, then my lifetime will have been well-spent.
About the Postgraduate Laws programme
The LLM has over 30 specialisations and with 60 courses enables you to build a broad range of skills to suit your career or specialise in a specific field such as public law for government or human rights law for NGOs.
You can progress to the LLM and have up to five years to complete the programme, making it feasible to study alongside your work.
More about the Canon Collins Trust
The Canon Collins Trust has supported over 3, 500 scholars from 14 Southern African countries since 1981. With focus on postgraduate and doctoral studies, and scholars who demonstrate a commitment to social justice and seek to apply their skills to achieve an impact within the wider community.
The trust runs ten postgraduate scholarship programmes for study in the UK, Ireland, South Africa and Malawi every year.
Full details for the range of scholarships offered by Canon Collins, including details on how to apply.