Preamble: I dropped out of school 3 times; in Grade 7, Form 2 and Lower 6. I’ve never been to university but have proceeded to National Diploma level at Polytechnic. I believe that school is a waste of time and money and if it was up to me, I’d rather have my kids learn how to query Google and find what they want on the internet than ‘waste’ 13 years following outdated curricula.
After posting an article on what College (or University) one should study in Zimbabwe in 2017, there was an avalanche of comments in our WhatsApp groups, mostly of people trying to defend their turf. Discussions have been on going and most probably will be for the coming weeks as students who just finished writing their Cambridge and Zimsec O and A’ Level exams prepare to look at the next steps on their journey.
Questions such as these may be going through your mind: Should I go to University or College or the Polytechnic? Should I study in Zimbabwe or look for a University in South Africa or as far a field as India or China? Should I repeat (seeing that I failed to get the grades that will get me into a University in Zimbabwe) or should I go out there and compete in the job market with those who have degrees and PHDs? How marketable will I be?
I’m not able to touch on all of the above questions in this post and what I seek to show is why the option of going to a Zimbabwean University or even Polytechnic is flawed and should be looked down upon but those faced with this decision.
Quality of Lecturers
The brain drain is real. Many of our qualified (and often well sort after) educators have been lured by “greener pastures” and either made the great trek to South Africa, Botswana or even to the United States of America. In search of a better life those who crafted their skills yesteryear and became good at it have opted not to stay and face the challenges that goes with being in Zimbabwe (or whatever other reason it’s camouflaged under) and have left.
Those that remain, through no fault of theirs, can only be as good as what they have been exposed to. With limited resources at their disposal, lecturers are not incentivised to produce high quality graduates that will contribute to the economy. Very few have the bigger picture and see what they doing as having a bearing on the nation and so just do what needs to be done (let the student ‘pass’ and move on to the next level).
Quality of Institutions
I remember in 2008 when I was doing my National Diploma. The height of “burning” took place in during that year and because of the entrepreneurial spirit that was within me then, I failed to attend lessons throughout the year When I saw one of my lecturers just before the exams I advised him that I was not able to write that year and most probably would be dropping out.
His response was “just write the exam. See to it that you put something on the paper. You WILL pass.”
It then dawned on me of how these institutions are just after “high pass rates” that they will be able to brag about and dangle before the eyes of students and parents so that they can choice their institute.
Added to this is the lack of funding that is at their disposal. Whether political or lack of innovation the money just isn’t there to allow them to offer world class learning at a price that Zimbabweans can afford.
Quality of Students
For the past 4 years that I have been involved in recruitment I make sure that I don’t touch a CV with a six yard pole. If you want to make sure that you don’t get a job where I’m working be sure to send in your CV.
If anything, those documents will see a number of people making it to hell all because of their failing to obey the commandment “thou shall not bear false witness”.
How many times have you made a CV and decided to call up a friend or associate and asked them to vouch that you once worked for them and did a sterling job? Or worse still, if you’re in IT/Graphic Design and decided to make your own certificate for a certain course? Ok, sure, I may be the only one, but what I do know is that the proof is in the pudding and 9/10 times people are not able to deliver what they say they can in a CV.
So to save us all the stress of lying on the “first date”, we make it a point not to look at a CV ever.
Added to this has been my involvement with University students for attachment. There’s been a number of them and their level of ignorance on a topic one would expect them to know leaves a lot to be desired. When I come into contact with such people I thank the heavens that I didn’t make it to University else this is what would have become of me…
For many, their mindset of WHY they are going to University is what is warped.
Some are doing it due to pressure from their parents, society, their peers others are going as they believe that that paper (a degree) will open many doors for them. This has not been the case in Zimbabwe, at least for some time now. What we have definitely seen in Zimbabwe is that a degree is not a ticket to a job. Most times it just shows that someone was able to cram content for an exam and not necessarily show their ability to grasp the concepts that were taught throughout the 4 years.
Delaying the inevitable
With the way the job market is depressed not only in Zimbabwe but worldwide, chances of one doing something totally different to what they studied are high (I’m a qualified Civil Engineering technician as well as holder of a diploma in Transport and Logistics, very unrelated to what i do now). There are a number of us.
Unfortunately the way the educational system that we inherited from the colonial regime works is that you go to school and get taught how to be a good employee and once finished schooling they’d be a job waiting for you that allows you to do just that – ‘follow orders from your employer’. We were not taught to be our own bosses and how to manage our own companies, why just being allowed to work in certain industries was a privilege as they were reserved for certain races.
Long and short of it, there are no jobs waiting for you when you’re done with that degree, unless you are being sent to school by your employer, when you’re done studying you’ll be out on the street looking for a job and most probably needing to change careers from what you were qualified in.
Costs of Studying
Along with the cost of many things education is not cheap in Zimbabwe. Well the quality education. Universities charge from $1,300/year upwards which translates to R19,500 BEFORE food and accommodation, let alone course material. We’re said to be one of the more costly places to study and from a value for money perspective I’d definitely not recommend one employing this route for their higher education.
12 months of TelOne ADSL (Unlimited package) $81 = $972
ZOL Fibre Internet (Unlimited package) $150 = $1,800
With this internet access (which can be paid monthly and not two lump sum payments every semester) one is able to have access to Google and YouTube where they can access anything and everything.
When you don’t understand a method that one tutor uses, to change a tutor you simply hit the NEXT button and move on to someone else who can break it down for you in a way that you can digest. This is not possible at University, where it is often the “take it or leave it approach”.
This option might not be the best for those who are practical based (studying medicine) but then those professions are very hands on and may prove to be difficult to scale. Try not to get into something that needs you directly and will not continue when you die.
If you’re interested in exploring the option of furthering your education using the internet you could have a look at these $10 courses on offer at Udemy (promotion valid until 10 January 2017).
UPDATE: For a response to this article from a lecturer at a local university you can go here: 5 Critical Reasons That Will Make You Go To University…
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