Yesterday, the government announced that it has approved the spending of at least US $1 billion to establish a STEM focused university in honour of President Robert Mugabe.
The amount allocated to the university is equivalent to about a quarter of Zimbabwe’s annual budget.
The Minister of Higher & Tertiary Education, Science & Technology Development, Jonathan Moyo, announced in a statement (pdf):
The Ministry is pleased to advise that Cabinet has approved the establishment of The Robert Gabriel Mugabe University to be situated 36km North West of Harare in Mazowe District, Mashonaland Central. The Responsible Authority of the University is the Robert Gabriel Mugabe Foundation, whose Founding Trustees are His Excellency the President, Cde Robert Gabriel Mugabe and the First Lady, Amai Dr Grace Mugabe.
The Robert Gabriel Mugabe University will be a STEM institution designed to facilitate the discovery of scientific, technological and engineering solutions to improve the quality of life of our country and humanity. To this end, the academic thrust of The Robert Gabriel Mugabe University will concentrate on critical STEM areas almost exclusively at graduate level to produce super specialists and super experts who will champion Zimbabwe’s industrialisation and modernisation for sustainable socio-economic transformation and development.
An important feature of the University will be The Robert Gabriel Mugabe Institute which would focus on research, historical collections, library and studies on transformative and revolutionary leadership, thinking and attributes that shaped the man, Robert Gabriel Mugabe to evolve from humble beginnings into an iconic global leader, nationalist, Pan Africanist, revolutionary, educationist, strategist and champion of the rights of the downtrodden the world over.
The establishment of the University will be incubated by the University of Zimbabwe through a process to be coordinated and overseen by its Vice Chancellor, Professor Levi Nyagura.
Cabinet has approved a grant of $800m towards the construction of The Robert Gabriel Mugabe University, and a grant of $200m towards the establishment of the University’s Endowment Fund for Research and Innovation.
The Ministry is privileged and excited about Cabinet’s decision to establish The Robert Gabriel Mugabe University. There can be no better recognition of President Mugabe’s commitment to education and his exemplary leadership. As such, we are looking forward to working with The Robert Gabriel Mugabe Foundation and the University of Zimbabwe to establish The Robert Gabriel Mugabe University.
According to reports, the establishment of a university in Mugabe’s honour had been planned for years, but recently the president’s wife, Grace Mugabe, pushed for an acceleration of the process.
Zimbabweans are not happy about the planned university, with most complaining on Twitter (#MugabeUniversity) that the Zanu-PF government’s priorities are seriously misplaced.
It’s understandable why Zimbabweans are angry about this. First, government doesn’t say why an additional university coming at a cost of $1 billion is a priority right now given the state of the economy. Zimbabwe’s 2016 GDP was US $16 billion. In comparison, our neighbours in South Africa had a GDP of $299 billion in the same year..
Zimbabwe already has 16 universities and numerous tertiary colleges run by the government itself or run privately, mostly by religious organisations.
Some of these existing universities are already focused on STEM, most notably National University of Science and Technology (NUST), Harare Institute of Technology (HIT), Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT) and Bindura University of Science Education. Government doesn’t say in its announcement what gaps there are in the tertiary education space that current STEM focused universities cannot cover.
It is also quite interesting that in the announcement, government says in one paragraph that the university:
will be STEM institution designed to facilitate the discovery of scientific, technological and engineering solutions to improve the quality of life of our country and humanity.
…and in the next paragraph:
An important feature of the University will be The Robert Gabriel Mugabe Institute which would focus on research, historical collections, library and studies on transformative and revolutionary leadership
So what really is the focus of this university; STEM or revolutionary leadership?
Jonathan Moyo is a Zimbabwean politician who belongs to the ZANU-PF party and is also a member of the party's Politburo. He is the current minister of Higher and Tertiary Education and Member of Parliament for Tsholotsholo North Constituency. In October 2016 Moyo was investigated for corruption by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) in cases involving the abuse of Zimdef funds. Moyo admitted to the corrupt activities in several tweets hhe posted around that time, but said that he was being target on tribal basis. He has not resigned from his ministerial post and has not been suspended despite the admission. Read More
Grace Mugabe is the Zimbabwean first lady; wife to President Robert Mugabe of the ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF). She is also the Secretary of the ZANU- PF Women's League after her nomination and subsequent election in 2014. She is also an established philanthropist who owns an orphanage in the Mazowe area of Mashonaland Central province. Read More
Robert Mugabe is a Zimbabwean revolutionary and statesman who has been President of the Republic of Zimbabwe since 1987. Previously, he was the prime minister of Zimbabwe since the attainment of independence until 1980. He is also the co-founder of the ZANU-PF. By different sections of people both locally and abroad, Mugabe has been viewed as both a ruthless dictator and champion of the previously marginalised interest of the majority black people. Most recently he is most known for leading Zimbabwe into one of its worst periods economically, but also leading the crafting of the land question through the Third Chimurenga exercise of the 2000 - 2010 decade. Read More