…education must lead to production
By Upenyu Chaota
The Reformed Church University (RCU) under the leadership of Vice Chancellor Professor Obert Maravanyika is making notable strides towards the implementation of Education Design 5.0 which aims at problem-solving and value-creation.
Under Education 5.0, Zimbabwe’s state universities’ traditional tripartite mission of teaching, research and community service has been revised to align it to the urgent national ambition to attain middle-income status by year 2030.
It is now demanded of the nation’s higher and tertiary education sector to not only teach, research and serve the community, but innovate and industrialise Zimbabwe.
In making sure that the university is in line with Education 5.0, Prof Maravanyika said RCU is going to come up with an Institute of Research and Rehabilitation which will focus on teaching, research, innovation and industrialisation.
“In teaching, we are going to look at departments that examine, research and teach programmes on various disabilities. In research, we are going to work around data collection, cultural challenges and assistive devices. We are going to have an innovation hub on assistive devices. The innovative hub will look at how we can look at the issue of spectacles and hearing aids among others.
“We had a workshop with people with disabilities and they told us some of the things that we do for them believing we are helping them actually do not work. Our research and innovation hub for assistive devices will be concentrating not only on adaptive but on manufacturing and warehousing.
“We have discussed this project with Minister Murwira and he is very happy with the initiative. We want to make a centre of excellence and we want it to be a referral centre,” said Maravanyika.
He said they were looking forward to introducing an agriculture programme which goes beyond the sense of the word and looks deeper into land studies.
“We are going to introduce a programme in agriculture but it will not just be agriculture because we have had that for years now. We want to look at ours as agriculture and land studies for sustainable livelihoods and food security.
“Land studies is very much related to agriculture and we want to find out why most communal land is in non-productive areas and low rainfall areas.
“The approach now is to look at more integrated programmes that look at challenges and proffering solutions. If you don’t appreciate why people are where they are, it obviously means you have to look back on your history, the various land commissions from colonisation which had the relevant acts— the Animal Husbandry Act and the Land Tenure Act.
“All these had a bearing on where people ended up living and have a bearing on livelihoods,” said Maravanyika.
He said RCU was working to improve agriculture and other socio-economic and cultural issues so that people do not just get the technical side of agriculture but also look at other social factors that affect productivity.
“We want people to understand what we mean by agriculture and rural livelihoods. Can we definitely believe that a young man in Chivi can start a family on eight acres of land and we sink him a borehole and be able to send his child to university? It is highly unlikely.
“If we say we want to be a middle income economy what does it mean in terms of earnings? And with where people live, can they indeed make a living and generate the kind of income we want them to earn?
“You go to communal areas around this time of the year and you will see that all the young people are at townships and when you look at the fields they are unattended and not ready for the rainy season,” said Maravanyika.
Higher and Tertiary Education minister Professor Amon Murwira launched Education 5.0 to try and move tertiary institutions away from theoretical approaches to more practical dimensions.
“Our vision for Zimbabwe is to become a developed upper middle-income economy by 2030. This is only possible if we develop an industry that produces quality goods and services, if we develop an education system which leads to the production of quality goods and services.
“It is, therefore, important to understand that science is the power that drives industry. Energy from science has to be captured using a particular design, just as fuel needs a strong tank for it to be useful, otherwise it just evaporates.
“Likewise, an education system which does not produce goods and services is not relevant at all. In order for STEM to be useful in Zimbabwe, it needs an appropriate design for its implementation. We are guided by the philosophy that we do not buy development but we have to create it through science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
“No matter how many STEM subjects we teach, with a wrong system and design, industrialisation will not happen,” said Murwira.