Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
More than half the 1 367 graduates from Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU) who were capped by President Mnangagwa yesterday are women, showing their determination to make their mark and take up Government’s empowerment initiatives.
Of the 1 367 graduates, 737, or 54 percent, were women with just 630 men.
More women are continuing to break the traditionally held mentality of masculine dominance and Zimbabwe is now starting to follow international trends with more women graduating from university than men.
The graduation ceremony, which was held both physically and virtually as part of measures to contain Covid-19, saw four persons living with disabilities among the graduates.
President Mnangagwa, who is the Chancellor of all State universities, capped the graduates at a colourful ceremony held in Harare.
Addressing guests, ZOU Vice Chancellor Professor Paul Gundani, said female students had continued to dominate the ceremony this year just as they did last year.
He said the President noted when he wrote in the Guest Book last year that women had dominated despite, in many cases, having to bear a higher load of family responsibilities.
“It is most fulfilling to notice that you affirm the empowerment of women through open learning at ZOU. Happily, female students have done it, again in this graduation,” said Prof Gundani, who constantly quoted renowned scholars.
Prof Gundani called for a review of tax on educational equipment, especially the appliances needed for on-line studying, given that Zimbabwe is adopting online learning as part of measures to contain the spread of Covid-19.
Despite progressive policies in the digital era where people live, learn and teach, access to digital equipment had been seen as a bottleneck because of the costs and data costs were also a major impediment.
“Many dedicated students are being left out because of prohibitive costs of learning devices such as computers, laptops, iPads, and smartphones that can download volumes and volumes of learning materials. This is compounded by the fact that data has become too expensive for the average student. These factors limit the quality of learning and teaching and indeed of the graduate we produce.
Many prospective students, and others who are already enrolled for study, are being left behind thanks to digitalisation. In my view, a tax exemption policy on educational gadgets is long overdue. So is the zero-rating of educational websites,” said Prof Gundani.
He said there was need for an all-stakeholder indaba on digital access.
“(A meeting involving) Government, business and the academy is long overdue to address the question of access to e and online learning and the attendant cost of educational technologies and gadgets. Digital access is a nationwide problem that transcends ZOU and requires a triple helix approach to solve it, said Prof Gundani.
As part of serving the community, ZOU had partnered Angel of Hope Foundation led by the First Lady Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa, to have the Epworth Short Learning Programme geared towards mitigating social and gender inequalities, thus meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
“In collaboration with the Angel of Hope, we managed to touch the hearts and minds of disadvantaged women and mothers in Epworth, he said.
The flagship pilot project saw over 800 women completing short courses in: crop and animal science; counselling; sign language and disability awareness; arts, culture and heritage; nurse aid training; early childhood development; and entrepreneurship and business management.
“The partnership has proved to be an unprecedented flagship community service and outreach programme whose short courses have proved to not only be ground-breaking, but a game-changer in terms of the role of the university in social transformation,” he said.
During the graduation, two outstanding graduates, Memory Gonyora and Bravinos Musaniwa, each received US$1 000 from the Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa Chancellor’s Award.
The event was attended by Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Amon Murwira, Vice Chancellors from other State universities and academics, among others.