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?