Studying with The Open University has enabled Zimbabwean refugee Vitalis Mumbure to gain a new career in social work, helping to improve the lives of others.
Vitalis, aged 43 and now living in Paisley, decided when he gained UK citizenship in 2021 that he wanted a professional qualification that would set a good example to his children and other refugees.
“l wanted to change people’s lives by contributing positively to them, and l saw social work as a way of giving back to the community. I am a refugee and l wanted to be a better citizen in my new home,” he explains.
Vitalis came to the UK in 2008 and was granted refugee status in Scotland the following year, after having to flee his home country to avoid persecution.
As a high school teacher in Zimbabwe, he was expected to monitor the presidential elections, but had been unavailable to fulfil these duties. Due to his uncle being an Auxiliary Roman Catholic Bishop, local ruling party officials suspected he was a spy, and an arrest warrant was issued.
“My experience of being a refugee inspired me to study to become a social worker,” Vitalis says. “I worked part-time at the Refugee Council alongside social workers. I loved how they played a pivotal role in transforming lives of many families in a positive way.”
My experience of being a refugee inspired me to study to become a social worker."
For his Bachelor of Arts honours degree in Social Work (Scotland), the father of four says The Open University (OU) in Scotland fitted best with being a part-time community support worker and caring for his family. This included being his youngest daughter’s main carer, as she has cerebral palsy and relied on him for 24-hour care.
He says: “Part-time OU study fitted well with my family life. l could study in my own time and pay for my fees in instalments via the Open University Student Budget Account, ensuring that l completed my studies with little or no debt.
“The OU is the best place to study if you have a lot of other commitments. Academic staff are there to support you all the time and are committed to ensuring that you get the best education ever,” he highlights.
“Commitment, dedication, discipline, hardworking, being organised, and effective communication with my wife and university staff helped me to juggle my studies,” says Vitalis.
Vitalis received additional support with academic writing skills and developing his professional confidence. The OU in Scotland also supported him to take time off when his daughter had surgery.
He adds: “The OU also helped me engage with the Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) mentoring project via the Multi-Cultural Family Base organisation, as well as contact with other BAME students that l had consent to share details with. I received individual counselling, and it did help me a lot.”
Now a newly qualified social worker in Glasgow City Council’s Older People with Physical Disabilities Team, Vitalis works to empower and enhance the lives of care services users and their families, through identifying and providing practical and emotional support. He says:
I am someone who has always been passionate about social justice issues and is committed to working towards ending inequalities, human rights abuses and discrimination."
“My studies have changed me as an individual and it has offered me so many opportunities.
“I am someone who has always been passionate about social justice issues and is committed to working towards ending inequalities, human rights abuses and discrimination.
“This has led me to choosing a career that enables me to make a difference and work on the ground, both with those affected and those who have the power to change policy.”
Vitalis’s family watched him receive his degree at a Glasgow Royal Concert Hall ceremony.
“It has been a journey worth celebrating and l hope this will inspire them to do the same. I do everything in my life to set a good example to my family, all refugees, and to all of the BAME group.
“I feel like l am on top of the world, but l haven’t reached my full potential. l feel l still have a lot to learn, so I’m thinking of how to further my academic qualifications. I will be doing this with the OU.”
Photo by Julie Howden