Role of education in creative industries development

HARARE - On May 15, 2017, there was something striking that nearly got lost when Higher Education Minister Jonathan Moyo revealed that his ministry is working on naming one of the existing universities, or a new one, after President Robert Mugabe.

Moyo made these utterances while appearing before the Oversight Portfolio Committee in Parliament.

What was almost missed was the fact that the minister also made a bold statement on the need for a full-fledged arts university in the country. As the Creative Economic Outlook Zimbabwe (CEOZ), we cautiously welcome this pronouncement as recognition of the role played by the arts.

We do so, though, with caution because, in our view, the establishment of an arts university is not the solution to the multiple problems facing the broader creative industries, but an acknowledgement of the gaps within the industry.

The challenges facing the industry are broader and much more complex than the easy route for which the Professor has settled. The creative economy is an evolving concept that requires agility in dealing with it since it's highly dependent on creative assets. These assets can only be nourished and fully developed through our institutions of education. This requires a responsive education system on the qualitative rather than quantitative side of the equation.

In this regard, the education ecosystem should have the absorption mechanisms that embrace economic, cultural, social and technological constructs linking both macro and micro levels of the broad national economy and developments globally.

It is highly problematic to define the creative industries in the Zimbabwean context since all indicators point to an unstructured industry that is yet to gain form and substance. The players within the industry are literally competing using their own resources since there are policy vacuums.

Our working definition thereof, as we attempt to feed towards the emergence of the industry, is that of a set of knowledge-based economic activities that leans heavily on creativity as the major source of their inputs for the production of value-laden products or services in cultural and artistic business and its immediate boundaries of influence.

It is from this vanguard point of view that we propose that education should play a holistic role in the consolidation of this fragmented industry so that in the long run the industry will competitively contribute toward the broader national performance. In countries like South Africa and Kenya, whose industries are on a consolidation trajectory, the creative industries contributes between 4-6% of their respective Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The most glaring challenges facing the creative industries in Zimbabwe pertaining to the role of education in its development include, but are not limited to:

· Lack of recognition and support mechanisms through policy interventions, research and development. It is therefore imperative that, in the minister proposing the establishment of education infrastructure, there is subsequent and urgent need for the development of a deliberate policy framework that positions education as the driver of the creative industries since success depends on the development and empowerment of the creative assets.

· Zimbabwe has generally relegated creative industry to being a hobby and the industry must develop professionalism. There is therefore need for the education system to give the industry professional form through defining the boundaries, standards and ethical codes.

· While the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has adopted a new arts education curriculum, lack of a corresponding review of similar curricula in universities and colleges not only makes a mockery of such a noble policy shift, but also has the potential to compromise the regeneration of human resources for the creative industries.

In conclusion, it is imperative for the government of Zimbabwe to start wide consultations on the policy framework towards the consolidation of the creative industries. This should be followed by the process of streamlining the creative industries into the education system of the country through training, defining the professional boundaries and acting as the reservoirs of cultural heritage for the nation.

The education system should form part of research-based interventions for scientific solutions towards a competitive and robust creative industry. It therefore requires a surgical transformative approach towards the repositioning of our education system, rather than a tokenistic approach of counting numbers of institutions that should focus on the arts and the creative industries.

(Nyapimbi is the executive director of Nhimbe Trust and a director of the Creative Economic Outlook Zimbabwe (CEOZ)).

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