Masvingo. – Government support to universities in the country has provided them opportunities to showcase their potential in innovation and technology, a senior official has said.
Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development permanent secretary Professor Fanuel Tagwira told guests at the Great Zimbabwe University Research Fair that the support had influenced huge transformation in universities.
At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, local universities came up with interventions that enabled the country to save US$300 million which could have been spent importing consumables for combating the deadly disease.
Prof Tagwirei said research works which were being showcased at the Fair at the Robert Mugabe School of Education in the industrial area, were in line with President Emmerson Mnangangwa’s statement when he inaugurated the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1), that that the country’s economy was going to become innovation-led and knowledge-based.
He reminded the audience that at a previous GZU graduation ceremony, President Mnangagwa had indicated that the government was no longer going to accept and allow institutions of higher learning to educate for the sake of educating, but to play a part in national development.
“By saying that he was saying it is a new day and I am sure you agree with me that since he came in it is a new day. We are seeing transformation that we have never seen before and for that we are truly grateful,” he said.
“Within that NDS1 there are a number of outcomes that are clearly expected to come out of the work of our Ministry. One of that is skilled workforce production, innovation and technology for national development, and we can only do that with research. So such research fairs as is happening here must be encouraged.”
Describing the government support in higher education and research as unprecedented, Tagwira said the country’s universities never had funds to do what they wanted, as was the case at the moment.
He said as a result of the support, many innovations had come out of universities , some contributing directly to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“We are seeing what we have never seen before, that students doing their undergraduate studies can come up with innovations, that medical oxygen can be produced by public institutions, acetylene, liquid nitrogen, artificial insemination enough to cover the whole country, we never thought things like that will happen but they are happening now,” he said.
Prof Tagwira said one university whose staff passed through a tollgate everyday, spending up to 40 minutes in the queue, had approached him with an innovation which was expected to ease congestion at toll gates.
The university had reached an understanding with the Zimbabwe National Road Authority to install their system at toll gates, starting with the road which they used, he explained.
Meanwhile the GZU is reviving plans that it abandoned in 2004 to development of its main campus on a council farm just behind the Masvingo Teachers’ College (MTC) where it has been temporarily housed for the past 18 years.
GZU officials led by Vice Chancellor Professor Rungano Zvobgo on Wednesday took Masvingo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister, Ezra Chadzamira and Prof Tagwira on a tour of the 52 hectare site which donated to the university by the Masvingo City Council on its Townlands Farm.
The site, just a stone’s throw away from the current main campus housed in structures belonging to the city council, is home to an abandoned imposing structure, a multi-storey building which was expected to house a number of faculties, which is at slab level.
It is about 7 kilometres from the city centre and it is expected to be the venue for the forthcoming GZU graduation set for October this year, as the government pushes the institution to build a permanent home.
The university currently has several campuses dotted around Masvingo City, Mashava and Chivi.
Prof Tagwira requested the university authorities to send copies of the plan to his office and to get engineers to inspect the abandoned structure to ascertain whether construction could continue.
He also advised the authorities to draw up a budget for the construction and submit to his office. – New Ziana