Let’s create academic synergies to promote a better Zimbabwe

10 Jan, 2018 - 00:01 0 Views
Let’s create academic synergies to promote a better Zimbabwe President Mnangagwa

The Herald

President Mnangagwa

President Mnangagwa

Director of Ceremonies; Minister of State for Provincial Affairs for Harare Metropolitan Province, Honourable M. Chikukwa; Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development, Professor Amon Murwirwa;

Honourable Ministers here present; Honourable Members of Parliament (MP’s); Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Dr M. J. M Sibanda; Members of the Diplomatic corps here present; Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, Dr John. P. Mangudya;

His Worship, the Mayor of the City of Harare, Councillor B. Manyenyeni; Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Council of Higher Education, Professor Ngwabi Bhebhe; Senior Government Officials;

Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Universities, Vice Chancellors Association, Professor Eddie Mwenje and other Vice Chancellors here present; Heads of higher and tertiary learning institutions; Captains of industries and commerce; Members of Academia; Distinguished Guests; Ladies and Gentlemen; Comrades and Friends;

It is with great pleasure and honour that I address you at this inaugural meeting with University Vice Chancellors; Heads of Higher and Tertiary Learning Institutions and Members of Academia in general. I commend the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development for organising this timely gathering especially as it comes on the backdrop of the current impetus by my administration to accelerate economic revival and growth for socio-economic transformation of our great nation.

The academia and institutions of higher learning are torch-bearers in teaching and learning, research and development in our quest for an industrialised growing economy and empowered society. To this end, they impart new knowledge and skills needed to meet the multifaceted opportunities and challenges of development; relevant, informed research and developed initiatives; raise public awareness and set guidelines for informed business decision making; responsible entrepreneurial behaviour as well as impacting on rational consumer choices.

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen;
Since independence, the Government has adopted policies that have resulted in the massive expansion of the education arena under both the private and the public sectors. Over the years our education system has been a force to reckon with in Africa. However, I exhort us to continually introspect and ask ourselves whether our education sector has done enough to provide solutions to our myriad challenges and equally maximise on all available opportunities. The education system is the pillar of incubation of fundamental solutions to our nation. Institutions of higher learning should not be satisfied with a very high literacy rate or about many graduates who have passed through their gates. They should instead harness their skills and intellectual capacity within their respective institutions to develop our beloved country. Education should be productive, it should be responsive and relevant to the society’s needs for present and future generations.

The pursuit of industrialisation and economic growth in Zimbabwe demands us to think creatively and positively about the manufacturing sector, value addition, beneficiation, import substitution and export promotion, development of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SME’s), retail/wholesale distribution and customer service processes, competitiveness in global markets and economic integration in the region. Institutions of higher learning should recognise the agricultural sector and agro-based value chain industries as an integral part of our economy. Equally, they have a leading role in shaping the economy through science and technology by being the test beds for innovation and educating future generations. To that end, an imperative question has to be asked regarding how higher education institutions fit in our mode for industrialisation and international trade policies. I therefore exhort local universities to establish academic synergies with industry, commerce and other renowned international universities or centres of academic excellence to boost their capacity in research and technology development through academic cooperation.

Institutions of higher learning should thrive to be “technology incubation centres” where innovations originate. It is also fundamental for us to begin to reward those who would have put effort in creativity and innovation. They should be encouraged and recognised through awards, prizes as well as the requisite protection of their intellectual property. In this regard I exhort the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to ensure that copyrights and patents and all other rights of inventors, innovators, scientists and technologists are fully protected. More concerted effort must be made to fight against piracy; this vice dampens the spirit of innovation and creativeness.

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen;
Educational institutions further play a key role in the preservation and promotion of culture and ethical values of a society. The leaders of a country are a product of the educational system in which they grew up and were nurtured. The phenomenon of corruption thrives in a society where people readily forego what is true and in exchange for selfish interests and expedient, unscrupulously acquired wealth.

Higher learning institutions should shun and abhor corruption, nepotism and bribery in teaching, research and management of all affairs within our learning institutions. Deplorable corrupt and immoral tendencies that have seen undeserving students getting passes must stop. Our children, both male and female, should not be subjected to abuse in whatever form for marks or higher grades. Learners must be free to report any cases of corruption without fear or favour and perpetrators should be brought to book.

It is incumbent upon us all as the key personnel in our educational institutions to ensure the integrity of our educational system remains intact. The values of honesty, transparency, accountability, responsiveness and high standards of professional ethics must be promoted, inculcated and maintained throughout every level from the learners to the top administrators within our educational institutions.

Government remains concerned with the moral decadence and associated health risk to learners within our institutions. This situation cannot be allowed to continue unchecked. Real men do not prowl our university campuses and take advantage of our young girls’ socio-economic backgrounds to abuse them in whatever form or style.

To that end, the role of universities in the preservation of national identity, cultural heritage and moral societal fibre cannot be overemphasised. I thus exhort all higher learning institutions to endeavour to protect, promote and preserve this cultural value and practices which enhance the dignity, well-being and equality of Zimbabweans as enshrined in our Constitution.

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen;
My Government despite the many compelling obligations pledges to continue looking at the welfare of institutions of higher learning. Over the years, Government has made strides to continue paying salaries and allowances despite the limited fiscal space. However, universities need to also think strategically on how to use their meagre resources to offer new products and services to the academic community.

It is no longer an option to keep doing things the old way; innovation and accepting change are now prerequisites for survival. Institutions of higher learning should strive to improve learning conditions for students through availing of decent and adequate accommodation, building of well-resourced libraries with latest books and journals. There is need for well-equipped laboratories and establishment of vibrant research and technology development centres.

We look upon institutions of higher learning to lead in research to produce a qualitative and technological edge thereby supporting our agricultural sector and agro-based industries through production of new seed varieties, adoption of water harvesting technologies for irrigation development and adoption of new farming methods. Gone are the days for universities to be famous or pride themselves in how long they have existed, or how many graduates they have rolled out.

Altering higher education is more necessary than ever before.
I have enunciated my Government’s vision on the role that we expect universities to play in the new economic transformation, modernisation and industrialisation agenda. Allow me to take this opportunity to emphasise that this vision is not only talk, but is fully supported by my Government ministries. Recently, the two ministries of Higher Education and Finance and Economic Planning issued a joint statement on private sector investment in accommodation and learning facilities for the benefit of students and staff at tertiary institutions. Therefore, not only will resources be availed through Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) and Build-Operate and Transfer (BOT), but all the necessary support from the various relevant ministries and Government departments.

I also urge the local corporate world, civil society organisations, rural and urban councils and those in the Diaspora to partner Government and universities in this academic transformative agenda. After all, captains of industry and commerce are the immediate beneficiaries of a skilled workforce rolled from these higher learning institutions. Let us invest in our labour force.

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen;
Institutions of higher learning should explore new ways to provide quality teaching through balanced lecturer-students ratio and adherence to laid out undergraduate and post-graduate admission policies.

Democratisation and mass recruitment of students should be done in a manner which doesn’t compromise the quality of graduates. Apart from that, institutions of higher learning should engage in community developmental projects as well as offering policy advice to the central and local government. They can reach out to communities and use them as laboratories to test new ideas and find better ways to achieve social and economic goals.

Let us innovate our way to economic competitiveness in this new socio-economic-political dispensation. We need to master and bring to the labour market the knowledge, expertise, high value goods and services that middle class societies will seek, need and use in the years ahead. There should be backward and forward linkages between industry, commerce and the academia to avoid skills-job mismatch.

I therefore urge members of the academia, researchers, scientists, economists, captains of industry and commerce to begin to engage to ensure that skills required by industry are the ones taught in our various colleges and universities. Our curriculum or course content should be continuously reviewed to meet industrial needs and expectations. We can no longer afford to train just for the sake of training. It is therefore my fervent hope that using the capabilities in various disciplines in all our learning institutions, we should be able to develop technical and managerial skills which speak to the identified deficiencies in both private and public sectors of our economy.

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen;
With commendable team work, team spirit and unity of purpose we can achieve bigger and better things through our institutions of higher learning. It is my hope that you will commit yourselves to the nation’s new vision of economic transformation, modernisation and industrialisation. You will improve service deliveries in all our universities and training institutions (both State and private) as adopted by my Government. We are building a new, democratic and prosperous Zimbabwe. I shall soon have a meeting with our students from institutions of higher learning to listen to their challenges and needs.

As we approach the forthcoming 2018 harmonised general elections, I am fully aware that universities and colleges will become launchpads for political movements with students adding their voices to the political discourse.

However, my message is that in all our political endeavours and manoeuvres, let us remember that we are one family, what unites us as Zimbabweans is greater than anything that could divide us. We are one people united by our flag, our national anthem and indeed by our national ethos. Peace begins with me, peace begins with you and peace begins with all of us.

With peace and tranquillity we can have meaningful development. Free, fair and credible elections are inevitable when we restrain from political violence and reject those who preach division, intolerance and those whose politics seek to perpetuate the suffering of our people. Together with your support we will create a prosperous Zimbabwe.

Tatenda!

Siyabonga!

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