The National University of Science and Technology (Nust) opened for the first time on 8 April 1991 with 270 students, 28 lecturers and three faculties .
As is the norm with new public institutions of higher learning in the country, lectures were at then being undertaken at various centres in Bulawayo since the university’s infrastructure hadn’t been built.
Bulawayo City Council donated 160 hectares of land on which the new university was to be built. The Government provided the capital and in March 1992, bulk earth works and road construction on campus started.
Sixteen months later, the second major contract was awarded for the building of the administration block. A year later a second company was contracted to build the Faculty of Commerce, work on the sciences faculties starting shortly after that.
More was done between September 1995 and 1998, paving the way for the university to move to campus in early August 1998.
It was not a bad start for the country’s second largest public research university. However, years later, the building of infrastructure stopped but student enrolment didn’t. Huge cranes hung rusting away above the incomplete structures. Instead of 27 buildings, only seven have been completed.
A few others are dilapidating even before they are fully built and occupied. It was unfortunate that while the cranes stopped at Nust, they didn’t at public universities that were established much later.
That’s enough of the bad news. The good news is that, after those forgettable two decades of stagnation, the cranes have started working, after the Government allocated $1 billion to the university. Treasury set aside $5, 2 billion for 11 State universities and of that sum Nust will receive the lion’s share. We report today that $127million has been released with more to be released as time goes on.
“We are moving a lot in terms of infrastructure development and one of the issues is that we are in the process of giving it resources for finishing off outstanding buildings. At Nust we have construction works which stalled a very long time ago,” Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Amon Murwira told us recently.
“We have allocated $500 million for the construction of a Students Service Centre and another $500 million for the library which means Nust has got $1 billion for the construction project. It is very intentional (to provide Nust with the highest budget allocation). Because of contract arguments and so forth Nust building construction had stalled for years.
But we are putting that aside and going ahead with a different model. In other words, the university is going to be the main contractor.”
It didn’t look too good for Nust to continue being in a rut yet younger universities are full steam ahead in terms of campus establishment. Yes, the university does well producing top-performing graduates who are very much sought-after by industry and commerce at home and abroad, but Nust should be a total package.
You don’t want an institution of Nust’s stature, and age, being under unending construction. If it were expansion to meet rising demand, that would be understandable, but we are talking here about plans that were drawn up more than 31 years ago only to remain on paper, by and large.
The Second Republic is to be commended for making sure that the building of Nust resumes. At $1 billion, the allocation is unlikely to be enough to build everything that has to be built on campus, but we had to start from somewhere. Actually with the new model adopted by Government four years ago, the allocated funds could go a long way in advancing the work at the university.
Under that model, universities must not engage external contractors to build their infrastructure. That is the responsibility of the institutions’ estates and engineering departments.
The model is beneficial in many ways. It substantially reduces expenses since there will be no need for universities to engage an external contractor who would need to be paid big sums. Most of the allocated funding would work internally, except on procurement of materials that institutions cannot make – bricks, electrical fittings and appliances, cement, quarry and so on.
It is also beneficial in that it builds internal manpower capacity. Students and their lecturers at colleges and universities build their campuses as part of their studies.
This aligns nicely with Education 5.0, the thrust adopted by the Government since 2018 to steer institutions of higher learning to produce goods and services, not merely theoretical stuff.
So we look forward to a complete Nust in the next few years with the Second Republic deserving a pat on the back for not only allocating resources for that to happen but also for coming up with the new, more cost-efficient and skills enhancement infrastructural development model.
Article Source: The Chronicle