Doubts about PhDs justified

HARARE - The aspersions cast on a doctorate conferred on President Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace by the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) stem from the effect of Zanu PF rule on our social institutions.

Grace, Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Education minister Lazarus Dokora were awarded PhDs, raising eyebrows on the authenticity of the awards and credibility of the UZ.

In no time, a skit was doing the rounds on social media with a woman on the phone, pretending to be Mujuru, apparently “calling the UZ” to choose a degree she would want to be awarded and eventually settling for a PhD.

While these awards may be genuine, doubts about the integrity of the awards are not without foundation. Both Grace and Mujuru are powerful political figures — one by association and the other by history and position.

Further, the two appear extremely busy women —travelling home and abroad, conducting political campaigns, government, family business and charity.

If they were full-time students, such hectic schedules raise issues about completing a demanding programme like a PhD unless they are exceptional students.

Because Mujuru seems to have acquired credible academic qualifications in the past, the focus has been on Grace’s award given her disastrous academic performance on another programme with a London university a few years ago.

It has been stated that the UZ follows the British and not the American system.

Entry qualifications notwithstanding, under the British system, a PhD programme — at least a credible one — requires regular interactions with an allocated supervisor, research and writing a thesis of at least 80 000 words which makes an original contribution to knowledge in three to four years.

Some PhD candidates also present conference papers, lecture undergraduates and publish journal articles in their areas of research.

Full-time work is not recommended unless one is on part-time study that takes up to six years.

Given the busy political and personal schedules mentioned earlier, and these expectations, it is not surprising that questions have arisen on the credibility of the recent PhD awards, and troublingly, the UZ, the flagship for higher learning.

This saga aside, the aspersions cast on these awards reflect a bigger socio-political problem that has afflicted this country under Zanu PF.

Faith in institutions that are supposed to be neutral has been eroded. These include the judiciary and the police. Such institutions seem to be or are attuned to submit to the whims of the ruling political establishment.

The recent PhD awards would not have helped restore faith in our institutions.

It is bad enough that the conditions for learning at the UZ are abject. It is tragic when  an institution designed to nurture and adjudicate our intellectual competencies is perceived to lack credibility.

At the centre of it all is the patronage system which rewards a particular class and persons. Appointees or beneficiaries are then predisposed to return favours to the benefactor.

Augustine Chihuri, the police commissioner-general, has served multiple terms. Few regard the ZRP as an impartial police force.

Levi Nyagura has been Vice-Chancellor of the UZ since 2002.

“This graduation ceremony is a historic event which is very difficult, if not impossible, to repeat in the near future,” he said when Grace and Mujuru graduated.

What might turn out to be historic is, in fact, that the event marked the day when the once-esteemed institution of higher learning lost all credibility. The day when we all had a poignant reminder about how our key institutions need to be independent.

In the case of the UZ, and indeed all other State universities, the first step to academic independence is to dispense with the idea that the president should be the chancellor of all of them.

In South Africa, for instance, President Zuma is not a chancellor of any university. Neither does he appoint chancellors. Such a state of affairs ensures that chancellors and vice-chancellors are independent.

Mugabe capping his wife made for an uglier sight of the connection between politics and academia.


Comments (10)

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GALLERYCARTRIDGES - 23 September 2014

if esteemed people like condoleeza rice had to take breaks from politics in order to go back to academics and for at least 2 years you have to be working fulltime on their thesis on PhD. I is laughable to see what's happening in Zimbabwe today

nhasi - 23 September 2014

These are fake PhDs, they could not have completed them with the work they have/do. Shame on UZ

fake - 23 September 2014

Grace "Monya for Hire" is daft and does not have the time for such a programme, unless akanonyorerwa. right now shes in US at UN

disgrace - 23 September 2014

This PHD saga is much more political than anything else.Mai Mujuru could have earned that PHD but the conferment of the degree came at a very unfortunate time.I think she could just have graduated quietly.

chimbambaira. - 23 September 2014

University education has always been suspect. How can the same person who teaches u b the same person who set the paper and mark. They should be an independent board like Zimscec. We have people who hold first class degree in Accounting who failed professional courses like CIS, ACCA, CIMA woshaya kuti zvinofamba sei

Munhumutema - 23 September 2014

Munhumutema, since primary education; your class teachers, set and mark your end of term examinations and the same goes for High school education your subject tutors do the same, these are very secure and scandal proof papers which cannot be leaked in our school system except for public exams which you refer to ,in an interesting but shameful body called ZIMSEC! University education is the best one can get,the others are agreed so-called professional courses which require high school results which are sometimes not average but scrambled passes. The real matter is that Nyagura is politically inclined and he is dancing to the tune of the ones who butter his bread. Massive human capital flight has been witnessed since Nyagura took office at the once esteemed center for higher learning. It is the faculty of Social studies which is to blame because of the senior lecturers who are there who profess allegiance to Zanu PF when they make political comments on ZTVBC which is actually known by level headed Zimbabweans as Zanu PF Broadcasting Corporation.!! Amai G. Mugabe please spare us and do the rightful thing, publish your research in an internationally recognised journal and we want to access that Thesis as well for future reference in our studies! Is it possible to get the link to your publications Amai G. Mugabe on the internet?!!!

Muzimbabwe - 24 September 2014

The degree is a fake and the UZ authorities were just plain unprofessional by dabbling in politics instead of running the institution with integrity. In fact the so called integrity at UZ is gone. Now they are building a spy center near the Faculty of Science (presumably to spy on the staff and on the mass in general). The technical building close by has not been completed yet a spy centre being by tenovated from IDS offices fhe Chinese took one week to complete. The late Prof. Kamba said there were too many unprofessional fingers in the meddling of the running of the University. This was 1991 in front of the President. Now many years later we see this in the action of the authorities at UZ. This is a total disastor. Levy Nyagura cannot demand accoyntablity and quality from UZ staff after what he did. He is just a fake, one person who should and cannot stand shoulder to shoulder with other VCs in the neighboring countries. His legacy is soiled. What a shame!!

Truth Told Tous - 25 September 2014

We are also happy that at least the PhD was not in the serious or applied sciences. Imagine if the PhD was in Medicine( vanhu vaifa) Engineering( mabuildings aidonha sea TB Joshua), Agriculture ( vanhu vaifa nenzara) or Science (every applied science would falter). Rega zviite ikoko kumaSociology nekuti ndiko kune zvekunyeperana. It seems the Sociologists just manufacture data, no ethics or integrity in this Faculty at UZ. They have tarnished the whole University. We also note that people are getting tenure without having the necessary qualifications but because they are Nyagura's relatives. What a pity!!

Truth Told Tous - 25 September 2014

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