Turning Mantra Intro Practice
Universities should cause industry and not vice-versa!
That was the message Zimbabwe’s minister of higher and tertiary education, science and technological development, Professor Amon Murwira delivered at the recent consultative workshop during the University of Zimbabwe’s Strategic Plan for 2019 – 2025 recently.
The minister challenged tertiary institutions, including the UZ, to step out of their “comfort zones” and take advantage of the new political environment to leave a footprint of excellence across the continent and globally.
“For industry to be there it must have been thought about – that is, ideas come first before action,” he said, addressing the audience at the country’s oldest institution of higher learning.
The university was opened in 1955 as the University College of Rhodesia and Nyasaland during the old Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (now Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi.)
The minister said it was mission critical for the university under the theme: Crafting a New Path Towards 2030 and Beyond – to be relevant and be there for a purpose, a relevant purpose “so that it is society that is the winner”.
The university (student) should not come to study for pleasure but to make a positive impact for society and better the lives of citizens, he said, explaining: “A university must produce goods and services – tangible or intangible – that serve people and society.”
Prof Murwira, taking a dig some faculty-centred” programmes mindsets, urged staff, working under challenging economic times, to move from analysis-paralysis syndrome.
“What we’re saying as a ministry and as Government is to link our institutions of higher learning with the world of industry and commerce. We have to translate theory into practice,” he emphasized.
“Please deans, when you are designing your programmes, make sure they are relevant to the needs of our economy, our nation,” he said, adding: “We need a thinker and doer!” In short: conceptualise and design!
Every degree programme must be clear on what they are going to produce – good or service.
This UZ’s new strategic thrust comes in the face of massive economic challenges the country is going through where there is dis-connect between its training institutions and the needs of industry and commerce.
The UZ is undergoing a holistic and strategic transformation responding to the socio-economic challenges facing the country.
Prof Paul Mavima, the Acting Vice-Chancellor, agreed, welcoming the challenge.
“Of course, it’s a big challenge but we as UZ, need to be working in the backstage to deliver and transform industry, commerce and society,” he said.
Prof Mavima, further explained his belief that universities are the rail tracks upon which wheels of industry and commerce run on. If the rails and wagons are not in sync and aligned, “there will be a derailment!”
“If there is logic, there will always be convergence in the conclusion despite differences in actors, time and space.
The need to better align the institution’s programming has the total support of various faculties, with Dr Nyakudya, dean of agriculture, insisting the new thrust is a milestone in UZ’s history.
“From feed to seed, fertilizer, agriculture equipment and mechanization, water and management, and infrastructure development, we are moving in a new direction,” he said.
“For example, productivity in livestock is very low, with the consequence that our meat exports are not competitive as our production costs are too high,” he said.
Different faculty deans – from arts, commerce and law, education and engineering and social sciences – made presentations on the way forward in addressing “real issues and real challenges”.
Developing new prototypes, adopting new technologies and designing new processes, partnerships takes time, needs time and resource, they agreed but as Zimbabwe’s small-to-medium enterprises represented an opportunity and potential spaces for innovation and productivity gains.
Tertiary institutions – like the UZ – are the natural allies for SMEs to grow through supporting new product development, and identifying manufacturing process improvements and sketching out new strategies.
The minister summed it all up: “Our institutions need to ramp up capacity to help business meet their innovation goals.
“Our economy demands that we find and craft new ways to encourage, partner and support innovation behavior among industry,” he said.
Our economy need s you.”