As the regime of Robert Mugabe crumbled unexpectedly before our very eyes, I could not help but recall why I left my university in California to do my doctoral fieldwork in rural Zimbabwe about a decade after the end of white rule. What took me to places from Chinoyi to Nyanga was a question that intrigued scholars of African education around the world - how did Zimbabwe come to build and retain such a strong school system? For South African students there was also a sense of a "model" for post-apartheid education.To this day, top universities send their marketing personnel to Zimbabwe to recruit talented students. Zimbabwean teachers in South Africa make a significant contribution to science and mathematics achievement in township and rural schools. Their students not only graduate from our universities; they often excel with distinction. The puzzle, of course, is how their schools survived not only colonialism but the dictatorship of their leader since independence, Mugabe. Unders...

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