EDITORIAL COMMENT: Tertiary education must match economic vision

YESTERDAY President Mnangagwa met captains of industry and heads of tertiary institutions to give the much-needed thought leadership to sectors that are pivotal to the economic development of the country.

Generally, the President has gone into overdrive in his bid to fix a plethora of issues since getting into office towards the end of last year, laying in his way a national problem-fixing agenda, with unmistakable ideological clarity. Yesterday he made it clear that gone are the days when the country could just churn out graduates armed with irrelevant higher education. It is time to stare each other in the eye and ask the most critical question; “Is this education system relevant to our national development agenda and aspirations?”

There is no doubt that the success of each country is not only hinged on the relevance of its education sector, but the immediate responsiveness of its graduates to national needs, in Zimbabwe’s case, the agriculture and industrial production value chain. Any education system that does not deliberately produce a labour force relevant to its country’s socio-political, economic and industrial development needs, defeats its purpose.

It is, therefore, clear that President Mnangagwa has seen the immediate need to whip into line the tertiary education system to produce graduates who are relevant to the nation’s industrial needs.

That the education system should be relevant does not require research. Zimbabwe’s economy is based on an agricultural base, whose harbinger was the land reform programme and it needs graduates from our institutions, who are full of new ideas and technologies that can maximise productivity and value addition.

Our education system should work on creating solutions required in day-to-day life. They must come up with technologies that make agriculture simple, but highly productive.

This comes in the form of home-grown affordable and right-sized equipment, new, but effective methods and affordable agro-chemicals for the small-scale rural entrepreneur who may not have access to bank loans. The same applies to the mining sector where it has been proved that artisanal miners are producing more gold than big formal companies.

Tertiary institutions should, therefore, re-align themselves and become relevant by embarking on a technological advancement journey that makes mining easy. Our industries have been suffocating over the years and also need not only recapitalisation in cash, but also the right equipment and right labour force, if Zimbabwe is to prosper.

In all this, research is a critical component that should be underpinned by a thought process that deliberately works on an inventory of national technological requirements. Obviously on its part, Government should help the institutions by pooling resources so that the research and subsequent production are of relevant technologies.

Before we even look at our foreign friends, we as proud Zimbabweans, must strive to turn around our fortunes on our own. Our friends should help us after we have started the process ourselves.

In our broad totality, we have the tertiary institutions that if well aligned can do wonders for the country. We have got the brains, the external exposure through the Diaspora; what we lack is the will-power, the pluck and a change of attitude to dedicate ourselves to coming up with a tertiary education system that fits and feeds into our needs.

Yesterday’s meeting is a broad statement that our tertiary institutions should address our national needs. We can do it. We can all work towards it. The ball is in our court. The country is ours to lose. The spirit of thought leadership, under a new political dispensation, should continue engulfing us.
It is the way to go.

Article Source: The Herald

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