Leroy Dzenga Correspondent
There seems to be a general sentiment that graduates being produced by Zimbabwean universities are by some margin behind their counterparts in other parts of the world. Many have written or spoken on the need for institutions and State universities to revise their curricular and fund research, but there has not been motivation to follow through on such submissions.
Corporates and organisations have up to now been complaining about the quality of human resources in Zimbabwe, calling out graduates for being out of touch with the demands of industry.
In the case of graduates’ incompatibility with real world dictates, commercial companies and large-scale organisations have held a high moral ground.
Besides articulating the shortcomings of the young men and women who are entering the world with optimism after a gruelling and underrated four or five years in college, corporates should play a part in ensuring that their complaints do not become a song.
If their concerns about the quality of graduates are genuine, they should be visibly involved in the incubation of the people they intend to employ. Business can offer support to academia without necessarily having to support faculties and departments with money.
As a way of ensuring that the human resource they get is commensurate with the output they desire, companies can set up a council or grouping in any desired form which tabulates performance appraisals of workers drawn from the various universities in the country. The body will be responsible for compiling reports based on the performances which would be shown by graduates in the workplace.
Information carried in these reports would then be used to rank universities in published formats which will inform prospective students on where they can go for the best incubation.
Universities do not exist to only churn out graduates, but also to create new knowledge, which is adopted by various sectors to improve their business practices at a technical or thought level.
There should be an established channel through which research information flows from lecture theatres to institutional systems.
Universities should relay researches done by their staff and students to businesses so they can evaluate their applicability and increase their efficiency in the process.
Once there is an ecosystem of ideas between industry and academia, there is continuous probing of processes which brings about efficiency.
Current dissertation researches being done in local universities are merely ceremonial to give easy passage to graduates who are excited at the prospects of concluding a degree programme more than gaining knowledge. Without checks and balances, local academia risks becoming a mass production system concerned with numbers more than quality in their approach to human resource training.
There is need for a system which closely monitors the convertibility of dissertation projects into absorbable knowledge. A tactful approach may have to be employed in determining how to structure it. Purely public organisations related to tertiary education have to some extent been marred by cases of corruption and misappropriation of funds, pointing to the abuse of institutions for political expediency by previous office holders.
This is why the private sector has to be involved in the matrix so as to keep the public office holders in check, at the same time providing real-time input on the way students are supposed to be shaped. Hypothetically, a union between Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education (ZIMCHE) and Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries or Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce can see the birth of a strong body which focuses on the guided creation of knowledge.
The Zimbabwe Research Council can be mandated to monitor the activities of the body to ensure that its activities answer national questions.
Zimbabwean industries need rejuvenation, but the machinery being bought in millions will not amount to anything if the systems are not tested as well as improved. A repository of updated and researched information comes into the picture, aiding those who seek to venture in different sectors.
Information asymmetry has plagued lots of businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa and Zimbabwe is on the list of those affected. Local businesses have had to panel beat international information for it to be applicable to the Zimbabwean context. In the current scheme of things, companies have to improvise in their use of knowledge
As a cure to the application of forced information into local situations, there is need for research to inform business activity. In this sense, there is need for researchers and academics to be leading the conversation of where the commercial space in Zimbabwe is headed.
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