Just like the economy, Zim’s education is headed for the drain

Sineke Sibanda

A statement from the University of Zimbabwe Students Representative Council caused my heart to sink for a while and to think that Zimbabwe was once known for the best brains in Africa, it would hurt to now think that it could all turn out to be a façade. It was ludicrously unbelievable that the breadbasket of Africa could turn out to be a bread-beggar as evidenced with recent news on shortages of various basic commodities such as maize among others. Sure, just like how the economy which was on the same performing level with that of China and Thailand in terms of GDP per capita in 1985 and now is missing in the global rankings, Zimbabwe’s education may take that route too, its standard recognition is close to being extinct.

A decade ago, industries were complaining that most universities were churning out students who lacked industrial backbone and suffered from knowledge deficiency. Come to think of it, by then, government was still subsidizing these tertiary institutions. Now that the government has put a full stop to that, I guess the country is yet to see the worst; a depreciation in education delivery, depreciation in student performance, depreciation in students’ lifestyles and a depreciation of the country, all because of the money, education has been moved from the centre, and money has taken the place. The institutions do need money, yes! But should it not be proportional to the service rendered?

Depreciation in education delivery will be inevitable at the once sunshine school of the country as the institution seeks to increase the number of students by means of instituting two intakes every year without instituting any adjustment to the staff and facilities at the college. One can only imagine that if a lecturer was attending to 40 students in one class in each stream, he or she had about 120-160 students every year. With the second intake, it means we multiply 120 by two, which gives us 240. Suffice not comment on the numbers, you can surely see the ridiculous mockery and insult to the education system. Is it just about the degree or it is also about the genuine quality of the degree? With time, Zimbabwe’s once recognized degrees in most developed countries will begin to be bogus and mere papers certifying students’ incompetence.

Another issue is the issue of students’ residential area. As we speak, the university of Zimbabwe cannot cater for all students’ accommodation. So where is the new crop of students joining in going to stay? Ordinarily, the general populace in Zimbabwe is broke and lives under $0.30 a day; there will obviously be need for new houses to be built, who will build them? The rich politicians? This reminds me of a concept mastered by a former students leader, Takura Zhangazha, ‘Disaster Capitalism’, a situation where you create a disaster and then you profit/benefit from it. This disaster being created here, from a distance looks so thoughtful, reasonable and absolute but in essence, someone has created an opportunity to loot from the already broke parents sending their children to school.

There has been a shift in dimensions in the policy of privatizing education, starting with the creation of many informal colleges, gradual increase in intakes every year, introduction of multi-campussing and that of annual double intakes pioneered by the Midlands State University. The goalposts have been disoriented and this has justified a nature of not exercising our intelligence in constructing counter proactive strategies other than all these reactionary strategies we are now implementing and are hurting every Zimbabwean. So you mean no one in the aging government foresaw the dwindling of funds and then advised on instigating a counter plan or a fundraising strategy to salvage any shortfalls? You mean all the other universities across the world are dependent on their governments to fund them? What other fundraising projects could be run to make colleges self-sustaining? Just last year, the UZ churned out 3 451 graduates, and you mean none of them had a research that could be pursued and later pay back or generate income for the university. If not, then what function are the colleges serving if they are not academically solving contemporary problems.

For how long has been the UZ since inception churning out students, how many researches have paid back in that big pool of graduates? This is so ridiculous, a lot of people have not been doing their jobs in these varsities other than slouching in their big chairs thinking of the next gimmick to generate and steal from students. What have the universities been investing in? One of the reasons why this country has taken a downward turn is because of the degrees awarded to selfish administrators with little or no brains at all.

This whole drama can be summed up in the words of one particular UZ professor who said the problem with Zimbabwe is that people want economic indigenisation without economic empowerment. There is lack of foresight, sustainable strategies and the ability to think beyond the obvious. The government can continue cutting all they want on staff, increasing the number of intakes and or of students, but this is all cosmetic and reactionary. There is need for winning strategies and genuine people doing their job, otherwise the country is headed for the doldrums; a point of no return…

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