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future of higher education - SAPES seminar with Michael Mambo and
Makoni Muchemwa, Kubatana.net
May 13, 2010
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As part of their
ongoing policy dialogue series SAPES
Trust hosted a discussion about higher education in Zimbabwe.
Presenting at the seminar,
themed The Future of Higher Education in Zimbabwe, was former Secretary
for Higher Education and Technology, Michael Mambo. The evening's
discussant was Zimbabwe's First Minister of Education and
Culture, Dzingai Mutumbuka. The meeting was chaired by Chairman
of Council, University of Zimbabwe, Buzwani D. Mothobi.
The following are excerpts
from their presentations.
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Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, article 26, says that Higher
Education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
The World Declaration
of Higher Education of 1998 talks about the consolidation of Human
Rights, Sustainable Development, Democracy and Peace in the context
of Justice and International Cooperation; and exchange as a major
avenue of advancing higher education throughout the world.
The next one
is the AAU declaration of the African University that talks about
the revitalisation of the African University and the crucial role
it should play in solving the problems facing the Continent - in
other words developmental problems. And then African Governments
to continue to assume the prime responsibility in sustaining their
universities in partnership with stakeholders because of the critical
role of universities in National development.
The Accra Declaration,
which declared renewed commitment to the development of higher education
in Africa, as a public mandate whose mission must serve the social
economic, intellectual needs and prioritise the needs of the people
on the African continent while contributing to global creation exchange
and application of knowledge. Continued support for the multiple
forms of internationalisation in Higher Education, which brings
identifiable and mutual benefits to African countries.
The last one
is the SADC Protocol on Education and training. This I think is
the one that will have a major impact on the development of Higher
Education in Zimbabwe, because it is very current and there are
attempts at actually implementing it. It specifies cooperation in
the SADC region in higher education and training in access to universities
for staff and students at all levels, from undergraduate all the
way to PhD. It talks about centres of specialisation, research and
development and standards of excellence.
institutions can play a key role in economic growth and development.
Higher Education produces the much needed professionals for lower
education levels and the labour market. Higher education plays a
critical role in building a knowledge society and a technological
economy and finally Higher Education underpins the creation of more
open, pluralistic, peaceful and democratic societies.
There is no
clear policy or national vision on Higher Education. Higher Education
strategic plans are too often not linked to the budgetary processes
and therefore allocations are inadequate and unpredictable. The
main problem here is that all ministries do their strategic plans
with very little reference to the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry
of Economic Planning. So they put in their plans, things like 'we
shall have a university in each province by 2010', [but] there's
no recognition of where the resources will come from to do this.
Certainly, the student fees remain too low to make a significant
contribution to the financing of the institutions. Participation
of development partners at the level of Higher Education is low.
We often talk about PPPs (Private-Public Partnerships) as a way
of generating more resources. Currently there is a policy on PPPs,
but there is no legal framework for their implementation. Without
that legal framework it is very difficult for the private sector
to engage in partnerships that might boost the resources for Higher
With the exception
of the University
of Zimbabwe (UZ) the other eight public universities are still
in the developmental stage, and will require huge capital outlays
for the physical infrastructure in the foreseeable future. If you
look at NUST
it's been under construction for a long time and I don't
think they even have half the structures that we planned for them.
We have the universities that are coming up also needing infrastructure.
So in the middle of all this there are three more universities that
are on the cards. So in terms of infrastructure for universities,
this is going to be a fairly tall order. The infrastructure and
equipment in the older institutions, if you look at UZ for instance,
is dilapidated and in need of rehabilitation. I suspect that NUST,
which has been around for a little while, has need for some maintenance
here and there. The new institutions that are being put up do not
have adequate infrastructure. So they are struggling. Converting
buildings that were meant for something else into universities.
I think there
is a need to create a vision and a policy for Higher Education through
a wide and transparent consultative process involving all stakeholders.
Higher Education policy should be linked to the overall national
development policy in which the role of Higher Education is clearly
spelt out so that the needs of Higher Education are factored into
government planning. I think we should move away from the narrow
focus of education and training and use the approach of human resource
development by adopting Human Resource development strategies. We
still have Ministries doing their own plans divorced from what the
national economic plan is. Ministries, when they are doing their
national planning, need to look at what resources there are and
then put in place a development plan for us to achieve our national
On several occasions,
Dr. Mambo talked about the contribution of students, whether by
way of fees or grants. And I'm just coming from Highfields
now, and we were talking about children who are out of school because
they can't pay fees or levies or a combination of them. So
I come here and someone is saying students should contribute to
Higher Education. How many parents in this country can actually
support the education of their children at university level? It's
a bit of a work of fiction to me. Until the economy starts improving
it's going to be a very difficult issue. I would say that
the first issue we need to address is to say how do we grow the
we are very delusional, as a country and in particular as a government.
'We have the best education system in Africa.' Where
does this fiction come from? If people said we once had, I might
forgive them, but as a nation we live in collective delusion.
What is our
definition of Higher Education, especially if we are talking about
a knowledge economy and about the way the world has changed particularly
in the last 20 years. It has changed in such a significant way that
it will never be the same again. If you are talking about a knowledge
economy you are talking about the people who generate knowledge.
If you are talking about the people who generate knowledge you are
talking about research. If you are talking about research, universities
play an important role, either in training researchers, or in actually
generating research itself.
If you are going
to have a University graduate, what is that graduate capable of
doing? If we were talking about primary education I wouldn't
care, I would say everybody must get his or her education. But if
you are talking about university education we really have to talk
about the quality of the training vis a vis the quantity. Give me
three thousand really well trained graduates than one hundred thousand
half-baked graduates. Because frankly, what is that one hundred
thousand going to do for your economy, for the work place? This
is a debate that we need to go into.
If you are thinking
about expanding university education in Zimbabwe, what is your strategy
for staff development, because ultimately, a universities graduate
output rests on the quality of its staff? If I want to expand the
university system in Zimbabwe, where will my teachers come from?
Are they all going to be trained abroad, or can a case be established
for looking at all the universities that you have got in this country,
starting with the University of Zimbabwe, and perhaps asking the
question, should the University of Zimbabwe remain a producer of
undergraduates or as a premier institution, should it really focus
much more on graduate studies, Masters degrees, PhDs? If you believe
that you can expand the university system in this country by sending
people abroad with your economy in the state in which it is in,
I'm afraid it's going to be very difficult, and probably
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