The Sunday Mail
Prof Amon Murwirwa
We have a big vision of converting universities into university towns. What do we mean? A university should have its core infrastructure, shopping, office complex infrastructure; should have innovation hubs, industrial parks, what we call other amenities different from lecture rooms, dining rooms, student accommodation, and libraries.
We are trying to have universities as a whole town that provides services, not only to the people inside, but outside as well.
Let me tell you about our real vision of a university. In the meantime, a university has been doing teaching, research and consultancy/community service – this is what I call University 3.0 because it has three missions.
But out of these, so far they have mainly been doing one of these. So now by doing innovation hubs, we are saying universities should now move to Universities 5.0 now that we have been allowed to construct industrial parks from three works ago, so that all those people who have ideas can come and explore them. Innovation hubs are places where ideas are vetted and made into prototypes; the industrial hub is now a manufacturing place where prototypes are transformed into products for the public.
This is what we call institutional infrastructure, we have been constructing these during the past five months. That’s how universities, colleges and polytechnics will cause the industrialisation of this country. (This is) to show that the core of Zimbabwe is education, and it is education which should begin to make differences in the lives of Zimbabweans. All these things we see started in universities. The error that has been there so far is to fail to take those ideas from universities and send them to industries.
When an idea is very good during university projects and dissertation, we take it to innovation hubs where it is analysed by experts. After that, it is taken to industrial parks to be made into products.
This is Universities 5.0 – teach, research, consult, innovate and industrialise. President Mnangagwa’s Government has added two other missions to education.
When the President came in and I was put here (in the ministry), we said knowledge that cannot be turned into goods and service is not useful. We said we should construct structure that makes sure knowledge is converted into goods and services, hence the innovation hubs and industrial parks.
The Zimbabwe higher and tertiary education system is ready to modernise and industrialise this country.
The build, operate and transfer model, which we have adopted, is a much more transparent model than the tender process. In the tender model, the selection processes are often shrouded in suspicion. Whoever has the money can approach us and do the work on their own without our interference. It is less susceptible to corruption. We avoid contracting briefcase companies.
After the work is done, you collect your money with some profit for 15 to 20 years then you leave us alone. Our objective is for students to be housed properly. When they are housed properly and are happy, we believe they will perform even better. Accommodation is not a profit-making venture for the State or the university. We are saying that anyone who comes on board will have to offer lower accommodation fees than the ones being charged today.
All we can do is to negotiate with the person about the period of pay back. We say if we give you 10 years, how much will the students have to pay per month? He says $150 and we say okay, my friend, how about we give you 15 years, then he says $75. This is how we are thinking. After the time lapses, the building becomes university property.
Wise investment is in infrastructure. So I am so happy that at this moment we have overwhelming response on student accommodation.