‘Higher education to drive development agenda’ President Mnangagwa discusses with members of staff while Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Amon Murwira looks on during the official opening of Midlands State University’s Pharmaceutical and Food Processing Plant in Gweru yesterday

Freedom Mupanedemo Midlands Bureau

Bold programmes for building the economy towards achieving Vision 2030 have been initiated by the Government, with institutions of higher learning being seen as a key in pushing this national agenda through innovation, science and technology, President Mnangagwa said yesterday.

Speaking in Gweru after laying the foundation stone for Midlands State University’s National Pathology Research and Diagnostic Centre, the President once again stressed the prominence given to higher education in National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) and the need for transformation of that sector through the Education 5.0 concepts.

He continued laying a great deal of stress on applying research and industrial innovation on the natural resources of Zimbabwe, so that the majority, who have access to these resources, could push forward with the processing and creation of new products.

The President was active yesterday at MSU, opening its National Language Institute and touring the institution’s pharmaceutical and food processing plant after he had, as Chancellor, capped a record 6 594 graduates at the 22nd graduation ceremony of the university.

“Since the advent of the Second Republic, my Government has been implementing bold programmes of national economic reconstruction and social transformation to create national wealth and lift millions into prosperity. To this end, NDS1 gives prominence to higher education.”

Government had prioritised developing educational capabilities to catapult science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship, under the heritage-based Education 5.0 philosophy.

The President said the initiative needed institutions of higher learning to become actively involved in the growth of the economy through the provision of technical and research-based solutions.

“The infrastructure, facilities and innovations that we have gathered to witness today resonate with goal nine of the sustainable development goals.

“They also speak to goal four of the African Union (AU)’s Agenda 2063 on transformed economies, realised through science, technology and innovation-driven manufacturing, industrialisation and value addition. I call upon the university to leverage on the Language Development Laboratories and produce an assortment of reading materials, especially in Braille, as well as other assistive devices such as hearing aids,” he said.

The Presidential Horticulture Programme presented immense potential for the growth and value addition of fruits, vegetables and other horticulture produce and the President said the Pharmaceutical and Food Processing Plant established by the university would thus be of great use.

“I therefore encourage MSU to increase research on indigenous fruits, which are abundant in all parts of our country. Such research must equally sharpen the discourse around unlocking the comparative advantages of the respective wards and districts in the Midlands Province, for the growth of the provincial gross domestic product,” he said.

“It is my expectation therefore, that the facilities we have toured today will act as catalysts for sustainable socio-economic development, job creation and the production of more ‘Made in Zimbabwe’ goods and services.”

The introduction of National Language Institute at MSU, said the President, would reposition the country’s linguistic heritage as a cornerstone for national development. The institute has been translating NDS1 into the full range of official languages

“I commend the university for translating Covid-19 educational materials and the National Development Strategy into all the official languages.

“The Institute will undoubtedly contribute to the preservation and promotion of indigenous languages and enhanced access to information by all people. The translation of all key documentation is applauded and must be expanded to a broader array of national policies and development-related literature,” he said.

The President challenged all universities to compete against each other in innovation, adding that the Government was prepared to support innovations with resources required.

“As a result of initiatives witnessed here at MSU and many others throughout the country, I am strongly persuaded that by 2030, Zimbabwe would have achieved successes and realised landmark innovations and a knowledge driven economy,” he said.

The development of any society was often associated with the quality of its higher education hence universities, polytechnics and technological institutions, now had a more pronounced relevance to the competitiveness of the economy as well as to the improvement in the quality of life of people.

“This is more so, given the interrelated nature of education, human capital, economic growth and the welfare of humanity. Gone are the days when our institutions of higher learning merely churned out persons who apply for jobs upon completion of their academic studies.

“Due attention must be given to increased production of indigenous fruits by our local farmers, value addition and reduced post-harvest losses. This will go a long way towards developing and entrenching rural industry systems and infrastructure, being championed by my Government,” he said.

The ongoing research on the production of pharmaceutical products using naturally occurring herbs by the institution should help meet the health needs of the nation. This, he said, must give impetus to a new generation of pharmacists who are the actual developers of various medicines as opposed to being mere dispensers.

“The Pathology Research and Diagnostic Centre, for which I have laid the foundation stone, comes at an opportune time with regards to the provision of affordable laboratory medicine and our ongoing quest to achieve universal health coverage.

“It is pleasing that the establishment of the centre is envisaged to stimulate the local manufacturing of laboratory reagents and point of care devices. I exhort the university to now urgently equip this facility for the speedy growth of high end capabilities for disease surveillance, control and prevention.

“These milestones realised by Midlands State University in the research and innovation sphere give meaning to my Government’s commitment to generate wealth, while providing platforms for our young boys and girls to showcase their talents and ideas,” said President Mnangagwa.

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