Victoria Falls obtains its first higher education institution
Zimbabwe has started the process of building two new universities – one in the southeastern town of Masvingo, and another in the resort town of Victoria Falls.
The two universities will increase access to higher education. The project builds on the government’s policy of having a state university in each of the country’s 10 provinces, a policy that has long been carried out.
When Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain in 1980, there was only one national university, the University of Zimbabwe (formerly the University of Rhodesia). Today there are more than a dozen public universities and several more run by churches and private entities.
Mugabe Signing Policy
Despite its economic and political problems, the country’s population is among the most educated in Africa, thanks to the early policies of its founding leader, the late President Robert Mugabe.
Mugabe, who analysts say started well but ended his reign badly, has made access to education one of his signing policies. However, some of the gains were wiped out in subsequent years due to poor governance, corruption and lack of funding.
Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s successor and long-time lieutenant who came to power in 2017 after the Mugabe regime was overthrown by the military, got the ball rolling for the construction of the two new universities. Mugabe was his mentor.
Earlier this year, Mnangagwa granted city status to Victoria Falls, a town named after the region’s world-famous waterfalls which are Zimbabwe’s main tourist attraction. The city does not have a higher education establishment.
In an interview with News from academiaZimbabwe’s Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Scientific and Technological Development Prof. Amon Murwira said the two projects aim to further increase access to university education in the country. The land for the project has already been secured.
He said a university in southern Masvingo will be built near the Tokwe Mukorsi dam. Four universities are working on the master plan for the new institution. These are the University of Zimbabwe (which takes the lead), the National University of Science and Technology, Midlands State University and Great Zimbabwe University.
The Tokwe Mukorsi Dam, a reservoir with a capacity of 1.8 billion cubic meters, is Zimbabwe’s largest inland water body and was commissioned in May 2017.
âWe are trying to improve access to higher education. Masvingo University will be a multidisciplinary university, rooted in research and innovation, âsaid Murwira.
âUnder the Second Republic (Mnangagwa administration), there will be higher education institutions in places of national interest. It’s about ensuring that Zimbabwe has a knowledge-based economy, âhe added.
New universities “a bad idea”
Dr Ricky Mukonza, a Zimbabwe-born scholar based at Tshwane University of Technology in South Africa, said News from world universities earlier in 2020, given Zimbabwe’s current economic challenges, it was not a good idea to launch new university building projects in the country.
He said that with so many universities struggling to function optimally, the money earmarked for building a university could have been better used to support existing institutions.
At this point, teachers at Zimbabwe’s teacher training colleges and polytechnics only show up for work twice a week, claiming they are unable to get to work every day due to low wages.
The government’s decision last year to shut down higher education institutions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and turn some of them into quarantine centers to house people returning from other countries, highlighted degraded infrastructure in establishments. For example, returnees from the UK protested their detention at Belvedere Technical Teachers’ College, claiming there was no running water.
A Zimbabwean returnee wrote a letter published in local newspapers saying the higher education institution was not suitable for human habitation.
“Hundreds of desperate students living in slums like Belvedere without complaint don’t make it a habitable place,” the letter read.
âThe fact that other citizens returning via the Plumtree and Beitbridge ports of entry were treated the same is not correct and does not indicate at all that the government of Zimbabwe cares about its citizens He continues.
“If this treatment of citizens by the Zimbabwean authorities has anything to show, it is that the authorities who have presided over poor infrastructure, including hospitals, do not care at all to protect their citizens from COVID-19 Â», Wrote the returnee.
âWhen we got to Belvedere, we thought the authorities had already assessed the place and certified it as habitable.
âWe had no expectation of anything flashy, given that this is a temporary quarantine facility in an emergency situation, but neither did we expect to be thrown into an emergency. place that does not have basic amenities, such as running water. “