State varsities need comprehensive approach
Prof Luke Mbune-Chakaza Correspondent
A good measure of strides that a country takes towards economic growth and development is multi-dimensional for it points to equity in terms of resource allocation, literacy rates, and rise in GDP and GNP figures, to mention only a few things.
Zimbabwe has so far managed to significantly narrow the gap between the poor and the rich by empowering its citizens both economically, educationally and materially.
The poor, as opposed to the colonial era, can now afford basic education, which has led the country to register a sharp rise in literacy rate.
The Marxist School of Criminology explains the cause of corruption as unequal distribution of wealth caused by class structure as propounded by the conflict theory of Karl Marx.
Marxist criminologists explain crime in several ways. Some draw on the strain theory, arguing that workers and unemployed people engage in corruption because they are unable to achieve their economic goals through legitimate channels.
Wealth may lead to a feeling that unlimited success is possible, which can arouse the spirit of rebellion – which is the source of immorality. Rapid social change can lead to anomie.
Social structure and anomie theory posits that corruption is an outcome of society’s unequal distribution of opportunities.
The class structure where, for instance, the rich (capitalists) stay in low density suburbs, while the poor scramble for space in overpopulated high density suburbs is regarded as the root cause of corruption.
It has been said that for a parent to secure a place for his or her child at an institution of higher education, he or she has to part with large sums of money.
If true, this is very unfortunate and this is because there are a limited number of institutions of higher learning in the country.
Everyday we read from the western press, and mostly from Britain, allegations that the Zimbabwean higher education system is controlled by autocracy and kleptocracy, which in my view is wrong and to dispel this notion Government must do more.
South Africa has a vast number of colleges and universities and if one fails to secure a place locally they can get a place in South Africa.
The thrust of my article is on the distribution of educational facilities on a national scale. There are a number of higher education facilities, be they colleges or universities to cater for the population, but what matters is how these institutions are interpolated to serve them.
Almost every province in the country has a university, which is a highly commendable development, and of late, a new State university is going to be established in Manicaland – Manicaland University of Applied Sciences. The proposed university is niched to serve the provincial requirements, which a commendable development.
However, I feel the scope of this university should be broadened to offer a wide range of disciplines in natural and social sciences, humanities, arts, management, among others.
It goes without saying that this is going to be a provincial State university, and the idea would lose its efficacy if it fails to cater for most, if not all, of the needs of the people of the province where it is situated. A specialist State university will not fully serve Manicaland, for they may want to breed their own lawyers, journalists, sociologists etc.
Giving the people of Manicaland a specialist provincial university goes with a half-baked motivation. For example, it is not plausible for a student from rural Bocha, after passing the Advanced Level course, has to go as far as Masvingo to study Law, or Chinhoyi to study Accounting etc.
It becomes expensive for the student, their family or the State to arrange and fund such logistics. The university must accommodate those who may, say, want to do history, since the province is blessed with many historical sites.
A cursory look at the proposed provincial university would force one to ask, if there is MSU in Midlands, Great Zimbabwe University in Masvingo, Nust in Bulawayo, Bindura University in Mashonaland Central, CUT in Chinhoyi under Mashonaland West, UZ in the capital Harare – all comprehensive universities in the respective provinces – then why not the same for Manicaland?
Is it not good for equity that all provincial varsities be made comprehensive in nature?
I have learnt with great surprise that the Manicaland University of Applied Sciences’ establishment of the multi-campus strategy commendably took cognisance of the natural resources in those selected fields in the province so that students would have access to them.
However, it should be noted that, not only applied sciences provide solutions to social, political, economic challenges in the province and the country as a whole, different tradesmen drive the objective home.
On a different note, the proposed university site is good, though without adequate infrastructure. I question the establishment of a very new varsity yet the existing ones have inadequate infrastructure.
Thus I suggest that Government transforms Mutare Teachers College to become the university while Mary Mount Teachers College becomes a college for secondary teacher training, and the proposed site for primary teachers.
If this establishment is going to be okayed, the Mutare campus will be responsible for all the other disciplines, Makoni campus for agriculture because of the high rainfall the area receives. The Nyanga campus will be responsible for tourism and hospitality, while the Chipinge campus will be responsible for horticulture and irrigation.
If the Manicaland University of Applied Sciences is made comprehensive, with an inclusion of the faculty of law, it will help alleviate the shortage of law schools in the country.
Most people have been forced to go to foreign institutions to study law and on return, are forced to write conventions courses with the University of Zimbabwe in order for them to practise.
This is tiresome, expensive and time consuming. Law schools are only found in Harare, Gweru and Masvingo, yet Bulawayo, the country’s second capital has not even a single law school.
To this end, I wish to commend the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary education for coming up with a State university in Manicaland.