Varsities must show professionalism

HARARE - John Henry Newman in The Idea of a University, way back in 1852, wrote: “A university is a place for the communication and circulation of thought, by means of personal intercourse... It is a place where inquiry is pushed forward,... discoveries verified and perfected, and... error exposed, by the collision of mind with mind, and knowledge with knowledge. ...”

The perceptions by Newman are very critical and should guide our universities today.

Institutions of higher learning have a critical role in shaping our future leaders by stimulating analytic thinking, fostering knowledge, broad capabilities and technical skills in students.

They should not only be innovative but also be student-oriented and interdisciplinary academic institutions whose purpose is to attract open-minded students and cultivate their ability to think critically, reason and analyse, in combination with a wide range of interests.

University staff, including vice chancellors, deans, directors and heads of departments should be men and women of principles who are hands on.

Unfortunately, some of our universities have lost focus.

It appears our universities have become a haven of rude, bribe-seeking incompetent civil servants with dictatorial and defeatist tendencies.

At the University of Zimbabwe (UZ), the vice chancellor Levi Nyagura is being charged with criminal abuse of office for allegedly conferring a doctorate degree to former first lady Grace Mugabe without following proper procedures.

The controversy over her doctorate has blemished the university’s reputation, amid claims that foreign nationals are now snubbing the institution.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa recently unwittingly confirmed that some varsities have become hotbeds of dishonesty and moral decay, and instructed vice chancellors, deans, directors and heads of departments at a meeting in Harare to deal with the vice.

Mnangagwa said the phenomenon of corruption thrives in a society where people readily forego what is true and good in exchange for selfish interest and expedient unscrupulous acquired wealth.

I have to agree with the president when he says learners must be free to report any cases of corruption without fear or favour and perpetrators should be brought to book.

There are also reports that a Great Zimbabwe University (GZU) student was on attachment for the whole year, had lecturers follow up on her progress, GZU assessed her, made her do course work, told her to submit reports, liaised with her supervisors and received her full fees for the year but then said the attachment was null and void. Not that she failed but somehow the varsity claims she was not registered.

This is unacceptable at an institution of higher learning. It smacks of inept leadership.

Can’t this student get assistance and be allowed to proceed with her studies?

I strongly feel Mnangagwa was talking about such cases where university officials must show professionalism and be problem solvers not creators.

Recently, students at the Lupane State University threatened to unleash widespread demonstrations if the institution’s authorities failed to expel dean of students, Honest Ncube whom they accuse of incompetence.

When students enrol at institutions of higher learning they want to be secure.  Feeling secure does not only mean they are free from dangers in the built-in environments such as facilities they use but also refers to not being exposed to rudeness, victimisation, unfairness, harassment and abuse.

Officials must realise these are future professionals and they learn the trade from them also, which then compels them to be exemplary.

The welfare of students should be fully catered for. Institutions should provide positive support and encouragement and not seek to make the life of students difficult.

An environment that is supportive and which fosters academic, social, physical and emotional development of all students is crucial.


    Comments (1)

    For your own information, the world over, Universities are more responsive than they were ever before. Students are now seen as valued clients. Also, take note of the fact that some, not all, students have developed and perfected the art of telling lies. As a result some parents have lost several thousands of dollars. In light of this, parents and guardians are encouraged to develop a tendency of visiting University Departments in which their children are enrolled and ask for information concerning their children. You made reference to that GZU case. If you were to go there as a parent you will come back and commit suicide because of what you would been told about your child. Parents and guardians please take this advise seriously. Things will change for the better.

    Kabius Kekedu - 26 February 2018

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