Farai Ncube Correspondent
People have responded with mixed feelings to the call by Government through the Higher Education, Science and Technology Development Ministry to standardise qualifications and abolish “irrelevant” programmes creating “idle” graduates who do not have innovative skills.
The Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education (Zimche) has been directed to audit all degrees at State universities. Well, a number of individuals have created their own wishful list of the so-called “useless” degrees, a situation that created a state of panic mainly among university first-year students.
Civic society, human rights groups and students have roundly criticised the move by Government. Labour, through ZCTU Southern Region has also joined hands threatening to approach human rights lawyers to challenge the Government’s decision.
Zimbabwe is rated one of the best countries in Africa, thanks to its sound education system. The main challenge that we find ourselves in today is we have so many degrees and so many graduates, who for the past 20 years have been offloaded onto the labour market.
Questions have been raised by many on the value addition of some of the degree programmes. We have read so many allegations over how a number of graduates have failed to add any value to the economy. While one should acknowledge that the labour market is and has been tight given company closures among an array of other challenges, the only way to revive industry is through refocusing and redirecting our educational sector.
The national vision as spelt out by His Excellency President Mnangagwa is to ensure that by 2030 Zimbabwe be rated as a middle income economy with a gross national income ranging between US$1 005 and US$12 235 per capita. For us as a nation to fulfill this vision educational institutions should and must play their part through producing value adding graduates. Reviewing the curriculum is the first step in the right direction. Reviewing the curriculum and aligning it to the national vision doesn’t mean to say some degrees overnight become irrelevant. It’s a move to ensure our universities are adding value through producing candidates who individually and collectively assist the nation towards realising its vision, aspirations and goals.
Our curriculum currently stands accused of producing managers and not entrepreneurs. The Government’s call is in line with the need to fulfil our new vision championed by the Second Republic. We want industry to move, we want to boost our economy; we want to produce as a nation and be able to export and get the much needed foreign currency. The new dispensation has opened up for foreign direct investment.
While we embrace new business downstream industries are benefiting. This can only be achieved through having a well oiled human capital and our tertiary institutions should and must channel graduates who add value to the industry.
It is not a secret that President Mnangagwa is leading an aggressive realignment of the country’s economy through introducing far-reaching reforms and re-engagement with the international community and massive efforts have been made to date. This call by the President needs to be supported through tertiary education since it’s the backbone and pillar of the economy.
One of the fundamental factor investors consider is the availability of well organised and focused labour that thrives to ensure harmony and productivity. Surely, the President cannot walk alone on this one, as a nation we need to embrace the call by Government. Tertiary institutions should play ball.
These degrees need to be realigned to satisfy the current needs. Take, for instance, Ghana and South Korea in 1957 had a near equal per capita income, yet today South Korea represents one of the best economies in the world. What happened, they simply leveraged on their education through proper alignment. The same can be said about Malaysia, China, and Singapore. These economies leveraged on their education, re-aligned their degrees to their national vision, emphasised on research and development, as well as investing in science and technology. These institutions can be able to achieve the same for the country.
Zimbabwe has the resource base and the capacity to develop is overwhelming, it’s just the mindset that needs to be refocused. Zimbabwe now has a clearly spelt vision. This can never be achieved through maintaining the status quo. New programmes have to be introduced, the old programmes redirected to meet the current needs. While most people think the Government is making a wrong turn, this is a good turn and direction.
It’s not just about degrees, but the value addition of the degrees that matters. We now need as a country to produce graduates that add value. Programmes should be remodelled and some programmes have produced more than enough graduates into the market. Indeed, some other programmes may be suspended because they may have passed their sell by date, but that doesn’t mean to say they are completely useless. They remain relevant because every degree matters. However, the economy can never achieve its objective if universities keep on churning out graduates that doesn’t match the current country needs.
The country has great potential. It needs graduates that add value. It’s a fact that currently industry is struggling but no matter what happens next SMEs will soon be driving the economy. India, for instance, is benefiting from the SMEs and our graduates should champion this instead of being idle. We have the capacity to develop from within and equally to complement our investors through downstream industries. Instead of graduates to wait for that conducive environment to work in industry they have to create their own environment. This is a positive development all stakeholders should embrace towards achieving Vision 2030 which we all desire.
As Zimbabweans it’s time for us to trust each other and bury our perceived differences. The tendency to attack the Government even when noble ideas are tabled should be totally discouraged. Let’s not be our own an enemy. We are simply shooting ourselves in the foot. We may be diverse but we are one. That which unites us is stronger than that which divides us. For us to achieve this Vision 2030 by the P-resident our educational sector remains one of the fundamental pillars and we all have to accept this reality.