Govt under fire over plans to scrap ‘useless’ degrees

BY SILAS NKALA

CIVIC society, human rights groups and students have slammed government plans to scrap what it termed “useless” degrees from State universities, saying the move might impact negatively on those that have already acquired or are in the process of acquiring the qualifications.

On Saturday, the government revealed that it was actively reviewing degrees offered by State universities with a view to standardising qualifications and abolish “irrelevant” programmes that were ostensibly creating “idle” graduates who do not have innovative skills.

The Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education (Zimche) has since been directed to audit all degrees at State universities.

Higher and Tertiary Education minister Amon Murwira said the realignment was expected to be completed in time for the second semester — around August — this year.

“We have some degree programmes which, when one completes the studies, that person cannot even practise what they have learnt,” he said.

But the plans have irked civic organisations, human rights groups and students.

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions western region chairperson Ambrose Sibindi said they will soon engage the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights to challenge the decision in court.

“Government approved these degrees and citizens invested money on the same, as they paid huge sums of money on fees. Some people are already in employment having used those degrees, the question is what is their fate now? They are in danger of losing their jobs or losing chances of promotion,” Sibindi said.

A student at the National University of Science and Technology, who preferred anonymity, said the plan was barbaric.

“What has happened with these guys? You cannot label as ‘useless’ the same degrees you approved in the past. It is like a doctor prescribing a drug and then soon after you buy it the same doctor tells you that it does not work. Utter nonsense!” the student said.

Another student said government must be taken to court for wasting people’s time and money on so-called “useless” degrees.

South Africa-based human rights and political activist Fortune Mlalazi said government’s priorities were misplaced.

“Our problems in Zimbabwe are not those so-called useless degrees, but it is the issue of infrastructure and education practitioners that are not well paid.
They must deal with these, instead of scrapping those degrees, but at least introduce degrees with modern flair as an upgrade of those which they deem useless without affecting the graduands who acquired them,” he said.

Church and Civic Society Joint Forum national chairperson, Anglistone Sibanda concurred with government that there were some useless degrees.

“I think to be honest there are some programmes that are now irrelevant. I agree, but I do not agree with the strategy of phasing them out. It must be systematic and allow those who enrolled to finish before phasing them out. It is not the students’ fault, but government’s fault for having kept those programmes for so long knowing that they are no longer relevant and it is unfair for students,” Sibanda said.

3 Comments

  1. Have we become a nation of arm chair critics? Surely what is wrong with phasing out obsolete degrees? Who said those who were employed using those programmes will either be dismissed or not promoted? If you are a parent, would you ask your child to study a typing course using the old type writing equipment or you would ask her/him to do computing? All those typists who used to hit the key board with overflowing pride, how many of them were retrenched or not promoted as the computers replaced the type writers?

  2. Proudly Zimbabwean

    Surely there is nothing wrong in reviewing our degree programs to see if they still match the modern requirements of our society and where we are going. People should be equipped with the relevant skills to match the direction where we are going. Skills requirements are changing everyday, and this should be done every five years or so. Industry and commerce should contribute in coming up with the skills gap that should be filled up by these universities.

  3. It is of paramount importance to review and overhaul the education degree programmes, but i want to be corrected on what is a useless degree? Lest we forget that some people who hold high positions in Zimche took them 40+ years to obtain a certificate in education as a qualified teacher, diploma and then first degree after years of correspondence which was a milestone achievement possibly graduating with kids whom they were once teachers or headmasters to at primary level. The obtaining of a Masters and then a PhD over a 40years of a rough continuous period of learning is a fulfilling and self actualization feeling but their bask in academic glory is threatened by a 35year old aged PhD holder and these folks always toughen the requirements to protect their interests.
    In addition, let us not forget that degree programs marketability are time centered to fulfil a particular purpose which relatively meet the law of demand and supply. Hitherto, degree programs such as BSc Geography, back then one would at least become an A level Geography teacher before the full shift to new GIS environmental models relatively to demands of time. And, in addition, Political Admin programs were just about adding numbers in University and mostly a majority engaged more on demos, but today the political terrain has shifted and with these candidates pushing to run administration of governments, council a lot of these graduates have been absorbed and these graduates have become relevant. A majority of these Ministers and Zimche Board members are degree holders of programs which today they call useless, and thus redundancy and calling of certain degrees as irrelevant, i am sure it also noble for those people who hold higher positions to made redundant as well and leave office.
    Lest we forget that our economy is non functional and our supply is too much over than demand and therefore market equilibrium position leaves a majority out of employment and until we sought the economy that is when we realize the importance and value of education

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