Torindwanashe Chizura and Kudakwashe Chikovo, USAPCS alumni, represented a 5-student group project nominated for the Global High School’s Zayed Sustainability Prize competition. Sewenet Haile, their faculty accompanied them during their attendance at the COP28UAE event. The following accounts detail their journey and experiences.
November 27th brought a mix of excitement and nerves as we embarked on our first ever international flight with Fly Emirates. The anticipation was twofold – not only were we eagerly awaiting the Zayed Sustainability Prize Award Ceremony, but we were also set to experience the marvel of flying above Harare and Lusaka, a sight that momentarily captivated us with the beauty of Africa. The scenic views were a stark contrast to the anticipated splendor of Dubai. Having been accustomed to the tight-knit USAP family, we were now ready to embrace a larger international family, fostered by the presence of students from finalist schools worldwide. This camaraderie helped alleviate the potential culture shock, revealing shared backgrounds, schools, and ambitions despite our diverse geographical origins.
The bond among us deepened over shared meals and a bus tour of Dubai, visiting iconic sites like Burj Khalifa, Zabeel Palace, Dubai Miracle Garden, Old Dubai, and the iconic Burj Al Arab. Amidst this coexistence, the notion of a competition gradually receded from our minds. Our primary focus shifted towards building a network, recognizing that the ultimate goal was contributing to humanity through sustainable projects, irrespective of individual awards.
Anxiety resurfaced on the 30th as we gathered in national attire, awaiting the announcement of winners for the Sub-Saharan region at the Expo City. While our project didn’t secure a win, we remained proud of its merit, acknowledging room for improvement. The initial disappointment was fleeting as we transitioned to the gala venue, sharing a table with luminaries like Professor Pierluigi, president of the International University Network on Cultural and Biological Diversity, and previous Zayed Sustainability Prize winners. However we kept our heads high as this setting provided an ideal platform for networking and idea exchange.
Throughout our time we immersed ourselves in COP28 events and we are grateful for fellow USAP Alum Nyasha Milanzi who prior to the event had given us guidance on how to navigate COP28. Country pavilions facilitated conversations with ministers and parliamentarians. Side events explored topics such as divestment in oil companies and the impact of climate change on African women and children. A highlight was witnessing the passage of the Loss and Damage bill, where nuances in language proved pivotal. COP28 offered the rare opportunity to share space with globally recognized figures like Hillary Clinton and other intellectuals engaged in transformative projects across Africa and beyond.
In the Shona language, there’s a saying, “Chinobhururuka chinomhara” – Whatever flies, lands. Our sojourn in Dubai concluded on December 6th as we boarded the flight back to Harare. Our hearts were laden with takeaways, from the global high school community we had formed to insights into cutting-edge technologies like infra-tech. Gratitude extended to the Sustainability at USAP team – Rebecca Zeigler Mano, Sewenet Haile, Nyasha Milanzi – and, above all, the Zayed Sustainability Prize for affording us a week in Dubai and a presence at COP28.
Written by Torindwanashe Chizura and Kudakwashe Chikoro