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Uproar Against Grace Mugabe’s PhD And ZIMSEC Leakage Is Hypocrisy. Tell Me How You Got Your Degree

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Grace Mugabe in Mapostori gear

So this is one of those articles that will invite angry people with daggers in their hands out for my blood. I am OK with that. I would rather see debate here than to see the nodding of heads every time. Conversations are what build strong communities and the strongest conversations are those from divergent view points.

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There has been a lot of noise about Grace Mugabe’s PhD which was awarded by Zimbabwe’s oldest university, the University of Zimbabwe. The noise didn’t start now, it started when the degree was awarded but now there is action that is following the noise including the arrest of the long serving Vice Chancellor of the university, Professor Levi Nyagura by the Zimbabwe Anti Corruption Commission (ZACC).

Again just a few weeks ago, we woke up to the news that Zimbabwe’s most important basic education public examination results were to be withheld and all the candidates were to re-write their English Language examinations. Reason: the English paper leaked and was widely available on WhatsApp before the exam was written. There were other reported leakages of other papers in this and previous exam sessions but they affected a handful of students and education professionals implicated. We all know it ain’t so.

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Now there are calls for Zimbabwe’s basic education public examination body, the Zimbabwe School Examination Council (ZIMSEC) to be disbanded or even arrested or whatever other action.

Hold up, are we being sincere here?

I am angry. I am angry that Grace Mugabe got a post grad qualification she didn’t earn. I am angry that ZIMSEC has consistently failed to administer credible examinations. I am also angry that people are angry. The reason I was frustrated by university was that my two options to walk out with the a degree from the University of Zimbabwe were either to cram and regurgitate textbooks verbatim or I had to cheat in exams. I chose to walk out without it.

I didn’t cram because that’s not how my mind is wired, I learn from first principles. If I don’t understand the why then I won’t recall nothing. I didn’t copy because of ethics initially but eventually because my eyesight would not permit it. But that’s copying exams.

For assignments and lab reports all of us- yes everyone in my department copied scripts from students who had gone through our programme before us and the scripts we copied had been copied from scripts that had been copied… There was an unbroken inheritance system. Sad because we were studying to be scientists. Scientists who plagiarised?

Fact that the lab practicals and assignments had remained unchanged for that many years tells you the jokes we were going through really. Even our lecturers read out notes prepared by a Dr Love who had left the university ages back. The stuff they read no longer applied!

My friends in the Engineering Faculty were given past ‘projects’ by academic staff to copy and make their own when their turn to do a required project came. I am not kidding. Tell me with a straight face if this is not the order of things at universities. I expect things have become worse now. Such things spiral uncontrollably.

At one time I had a roommate who would make money from writing assignments for students who were corresponding with the popular University of South Africa (UNISA). These were working people whose idea of adding their level of skill was to get a UNISA Masters Degree they didn’t work for. How many UNISA, ZOU and even theological students attained their ‘qualification’ this way? Yes, I know someone who was ‘working’ for a theological qualification this way.

Heck, let me ask: how did you get the certificate you hung up in your home?

The price is paid somewhere, the price is always paid

I suffer for this system of broken integrity every time I interview people for a job. Some of you might have noticed every time Techzim advertises for a job we explicitly request that no respondent send their CV. Every time someone sends it anyway, we do not respond to them.

The reason is not that we don’t think there are some good folks out there who actually earned their qualifications. We don’t ask for CV’s because whether someone holds qualification x or not is moot because we have to test everyone for the skills and attitude we need. Those with qualifications may have earned them or they may have cheated into them or they may have earned them by being taught irrelevant stuff. Why bother checking qualifications? We can tell if someone is a good fit our own way.

However, this comes at a cost. If the educational institutions were doing a pre-screening for us it would save us a lot of time resources to hire. The cost is even higher for most of our fellow employers who assume that a paper that says first class means anything. Sometimes they get lucky and hire a good one who whether they earned the degree or not, are hard working and apply themselves. I contend that most of the times they are not so lucky and they don’t even know it.

Just yesterday I was interviewing a guy who wanted to be part of our engineering team. I asked him about anything he had built before and he described a programme he had built for some lady who needed it for a college project. I kept probing about this and the poor guy did not even realise the irony of talking about doing something so unethical in a job interview. He helped someone cheat in exchange for money!

That’s the biggest cost now. Our senses have been dulled and we don’t see the problem with cheating or aiding and abating a cheat. So, no, folks ain’t angry because Grace Mugabe cheated her way into being called Dr, they are angry because it is Grace Mugabe! I will call her Dr. Grace Mugabe because to be frank, she earned her PhD just the same way everyone else (the bulk, OK) earned them. If they are Dr. such and such then she is Dr. Grace Mugabe. My problem with her was the Amai part. She ain’t my mama.

What of ZIMSEC exam leaks?

Outcry is hypocritical too. How many parents would have bought any paper especially the math paper if someone from ZIMSEC had approached them selling and that parent could afford it and had a kid sitting for the exam? If you wouldn’t, I assure you, you are in the minority. Most don’t even need it to be their kid. If they come across a leaked paper they will share it on the church intercession group and they will lead with, “Praise God, I came across this paper for all of you saints who have children writing exams.’ All the saints will then say Amen with a very pure and thankful heart!

This is a terrible culture that has crept in. This is where pilferage at work starts and we come up with witty proverbs, “Mbudzi inodya payakasungirirwa (A goat cannot but graze where its leash allows).” The decreasing productivity should not be surprising. If someone only has to bat eyelashes to get a degree or to pass their O levels, we would be foolish to expect them to give their heart and soul into our businesses.

The Dr. Grace Mugabe PhD nonsense happened because it has been acceptable for a long time that all you need is to get a piece of paper that validates you regardless of how you get it. It has been accepted that students can and should use archive (as we called it) or zvitunha (as students from other places called handed down marked assignment scripts). My university tutor told me point blank that I would not pass if I didn’t get my hands on archives.

The ZIMSEC leakages keep happening because we have taught kids that they just need to pass and it doesn’t matter how so long as they are not caught. We even measure out amount of love each child receives based on how well they do in school saka ndizvozvo. It keeps happening because there is a demand for leaked papers among parents and teachers even more than the school kids who don’t have buying power really.

I don’t know how culture is changed but this one has to change. I hope we get to a generation where kids will run away from a leaked paper not because of the possible punishment if caught but because they cannot imagine themselves stooping to become a cheat.

Let’s not raise Dr. Grace Mugabe and Professor Levi Nyagura (am not a fan of his) to a standard we have not taught our kids to be. To a standard we don’t hold ourselves.

Grace MugabeLevi NyaguraZimsec

Grace Ntombizodwa Mugabe (nee Marufu) is a Zimbabwean politician, wife to former President Robert Mugabe and former member of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) political party. She was the Secretary of the Zanu-PF Women's League after her nomination and subsequent election in 2014.... Read More About Grace Mugabe

Levi Martin Nyagura is a Zimbabwean academic and former Vice Chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe (UZ). In February 2018, Nyagura was arrested by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) and charged with recommending "the conferring of a doctor of philosophy degree to Grace Marufu Mugabe... Read More About Levi Nyagura

The Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (ZIMSEC) is an autonomous parastatal under the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education. ZIMSEC was setup as a result of the 1994, Zimbabwe School Examinations Council Act. Amoung other reasons, the examinations were localised to ensure the end of colonial... Read More About Zimsec


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30 thoughts on “Uproar Against Grace Mugabe’s PhD And ZIMSEC Leakage Is Hypocrisy. Tell Me How You Got Your Degree

  1. Thanks for being frank. I also know that 90% of university students cannot do research projects because they are not adequately taught to do research. For example most Masters students in Zimbabwe do one course on research methods by block release. Students meet for 2 days a course and then come and write exams. Now what type of research can students do? How can one do research seriously without having done basic statistics?
    How can a serious university offer a degree with no fulltime staff? No library, no internet. All these block release programs and new PhDs is just cheating. Period.

  2. Ughmm Zvitunha, I have a friend who went to a school in Mashonaland who called to tell me they had revised the same paper prior to the exam.I was broken, to say the least.Kaplinsky challenges that it is the failure to engage in globalisation that contributes to poverty and considers the evidence that people who do not participate are poor.I missed that part and did my A level in mat ,, look at where that got me I could not qualify to study medicine yet people I whipped in the class(the extra lessons during the holidays) had access to the paper and passed.Lame, yes…But now I know …

    1. You sound like you regret not having cheated and that from now onwards you will be cheating all the way? I don’t think that is the lesson to be learnt here…

      1. You make a valid point, cheating is not the way but this has to stop We simply need funding for Masters by research, you will see this attitude of ‘let my people go’ will disappear.Some so-called supervisors have one or two publications,(not all I’m referring to those who got the job because they know so and so )These are the social misfits encouraging students to get zvitunha . That is why it is called a discipline.But well again money pays the bills and people who can afford post grad study are the elite.

        1. Yes, financed research could be a good help. Our universities are not useful to industry as it is because most of what post grads research on is irrelevant stuff that is merely academic and then they go on to cheat on these too!

  3. you see, this’s the truth! leave Prof Nyagura and Dr Amai G N Mugabe alone! or, first clamp all those people who got their degrees fraudulently from the start. otherwise we’ll just be politicking!

  4. Thanks for the candid and frank piece. All I can say is that, by realizing our weakness, we gain strength. So, let us share ideas on how things can be improved and be a proud and enlightened people

    1. Yes you are very right Norman. These headline stories give us opportunity to talk about what has been taboo to talk about for years: that our education system is not as it was. That’s not a bad thing, it gives us a chance to rebuild and leapfrog.
      Previously, any attack on the system was taken personally by Zimbos. Education has always been a god here and gods cannot be touched. It slowly slid into irrelevancy because it was a god and could not be questioned or improved upon.

      Can I be first to offer a possible solution? I advocate reimagining and introducing a totally new way of assessing students not these exams as they are. The curriculum introduced by Dokora was an attempt just that he had hang ups on other ridiculous components

  5. Yes Tinashe, I totally agree. When you have time check out Bloom’s Taxonomy and situate the ideas propounded into our context. Cheers

  6. I am disgusted by the way Universities teach, its sad to note that marks are dished out based on how strong yo relationship is with the lecturer. I am not proud of the degree that I earned at NUST cause some lecturers would not teach the material in the course outline but just come with 4 questions and give pple to practice for the whole semester. Then during exams, they just give u the same questions, then award all of you with a 2.2 grade and u walk away

  7. Most employers have to protect shareholder value – this is one of the reasons why they ask for CVs of those with 2.1 or better. But l think they do this because they don’t want to take a risk and out of fear; for them it’s better to go with a tried and tested formula. As for me personally, I almost did not finish my dissertation (in 2013) because I didn’t have much sources to rely on. My topic was the first in our department and only 1 person had heard about the concept before. I had to start and complete my unisa mini-dissertation on the due date because l spent too much time trying to find a good topic. And what do l get in both researches? A 3 chishiri. But lam grateful that l did the hardwork myself because l have seen an opportunity in our market to implement both topics, something which you get when wapiwa chitunha

  8. I couldn’t agree more. My issue with university was not really on cheating, I did cheat, I won’t deny that(which was wrong, I justified my acts by saying everyone is cheating and if I don’t do so, I will get lower grades since everyone else is cheating and won’t get that 2.1 degree class). My biggest issue with U.Z was how I was examined on topics such as Algorithms. The lecturer would come and read his notes, give us handouts with algorithms(nothing wrong with this) and when it came to exam time ask us to reproduce those algorithms. There would be very few questions on how to apply this knowledge to real life scenarios. This meant if you were someone like me with a good memory and average intellect, you would ace the exams. I never questioned my education until I left Zim. I got an interview at Amazon. The interview wasn’t hard but I failed because I did not have a firm grasp of algorithms and space/time complexity principles. I began upgrading myself, reading and practising, only then did I realise how much of a shallow education I received. There are some good departments at U.Z though, e.g Maths department

    Another thing I have an issue with that has become a global problem as well are exam dumps. In Zim, I worked for a company that required everyone to have a certification. Management thought this was a some assurance of quality, but they were wrong. Most people simply used exam dumps and got scores as high as 99%. A certification that normally took 6 months to get was being earned in a week. It’s so terrible in Zim, I got to the point of assuming everyone with a certification had used exam dumps. One time there was a tech expo at Rainbow towers and one guy was complaining about how they get so many CVs with Oracle DB certifications but when they call people in for technical interviews, they won’t even know the bare basics.

    I like your approach of not looking at CVs, it evens the palying field. The interview becomes a skills and culture fit interview rather than a talk about qualifications

    1. Thanks much for being so candid.
      I don’t know much about the Math department. I took a course from there and I don’t remember much about it.
      Yes, the world has to move on from just checking papers. There is need for some new system and technology probably has a solution already.
      O yes, exactly. You get our motivation for our recruitment process. Culture fit then skills pretty much sums our criteria and all we do in the process is to try measure those two

  9. So….is cheating part of your “culture fit”? I’m honestly flabbergasted!
    It doesn’t surprise me though, after reading this piece, why some graduates can’t tell the difference between they, their, they’re and there for example. I read recently a complaint form someone who wrote “tip of eyes bag” instead of “tip of iceberg” or “quiet” instead of “quite” or “fair” instead of “fare” etc This was explained to me clearly in Grade 7 in Rhodesia.
    Someone even has the guts to say not asking for a CV, “levels the playing field”, what drivel from a cheat.
    I belong to a totally different generation with a different value system which I have drilled into my two children – subsequently I’m not your average popular dad and I love it!!
    CVs can and are still being used the world over. – but not in isolation. Some employers e.g. in RSA use a complementary polygraph test to rule out lying/cheating and in some large corporations the interview panel consists of people from the various domains or there are multiple interviews that include psychometric, aptitude and relevant practical tests/exercises. Don’t rule out CVs from your cheating world – you will never know the value you’re losing in doing so.

    1. Cheating as part of our culture? Where is that implied?
      Did I make typos? Will check and fix, sorry.

      Yes, all the tools you gave example of make my point why I don’t take CV’s because whether I received someone’s CV or not I will go through all that to check competency. Why ask for it in the first place?
      It may be useful the world over but that should not be my motivation to ask for it. Everybody is doing it is never justification for anything

  10. Great article. My mother would agree with you wholeheartedly. I was born and bred in Hwange. The Colliery coal mine is Hwange. Back in the eighties and nineties there were very few engineers working for the colliery. There were probably 3 or so. The mine worked efficiently and cokeworks worked really well producing coke. Artisans who had been promoted to foremen provided most of the leadership.

    Fast forward to today. The Colliery is chocabloc full of engineers, accountants, industrial pyschologists, computer scientists … you name it. You would think with all these educated individuals the company would be more efficient. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Colliery is being outperformed by little mines cropping up around the area and little Chinese coke works cropping up everywhere.

    Look I know the political situation and a role in it but my mother’s (a retired teacher from the 70s who has seen it all) favourite term is “certificated but not educated”.

    1. Hey Hwange Born you know how to make a point! Very good story telling there. Sad as it may be but what a vivid illustration to help us ponder what could be wrong and how we could possibly fix it

    1. Hahaha, let me get a degree in mathematical probability first and I will gladly play lotto

  11. Thank you for this mirror type article. Our ancestors would say you stabbed the baboon in the mouth.

    Ini hanguwo (me myself personally) I think there’s a mix of issues that we need to appreciate and then fix if we are to ever deal with this honestly.

    Zimbabwe is struggling with multiple complexes. 1. Celebrating the education and not the learning; 2. deeply rooted (and sadly, sometimes celebrated (#WicknellMoney) ) corruption; 3. a sense of intellectual superiority (which I question every single day); and 4. a short-term approach to just about everything.

    1. As long as we continue to glorify the certificate and not the skill we will always have problems I guess we know where we inherited this obsession with degrees for the sake of degrees ka. Just watch the film we had cameo roles in about an overeducated, fallen third world dictator and his advisors many of whom had PhDs. They couldn’t manage a small Wakanda like kingdom but still insisted on running the show. They should have been given marching orders after ESAP I say! That culture seeped into ministries and parastatals first, then the private sector, and now this cancer has spread kwese- stage 3 chaiyo. As long as wakaita MBA you are deemed fit for the drivers’ seat, even for decades. Whatever happened to what you have done? REAL Achievements ka. (Your no CV approach is commendable!)

    2. The massive extent of corruption doesn’t help too. “Everyone” is brazenly corrupt, saka vefundo ndivo vadiiwo nhai? They are just mortgaging the slice of the country’s future that they have access to like everyone else.
    After kids pass through such “institutions of higher learning” they use corruption to get jobs #NepotismIsCorruption (vodiiwo? remember there’s a tonne of graduates now coz we have degree factories and no real ones – our learned former chancellor loved capping them every year) And they work for MBAd PhDd (via Chitunha) bosses.

    3. We have the highest literacy in Africa – Tired of this now. But The record will play until hameno coz we love degrees ka! Lots of them futi? Our leaders have many many of them – hona vaitenga PhD. I think we need to shake this sense of being the best in literary and start doing things that show that, kwete believing in rock diesel or losing billions worth of diamonds when we still import electricity.

    4. Zvitunha, dumps and copying your way through degree is rent-seeking, short-sighted behaviour. I know, I’ve been there.You pay the price at some point. You shall be exposed. In Zim the workarounds are just applying lipstick on that.

    And all these cosmetic solutions we apply eg building more universities instead of figuring how to train more people in real skills; taxing industries to death instead of pushing innovation; hu dealer celebrated as entrepreneurship; the list goes on…. it shows we are looking at whats just in front of us. What about in the next 80 years?

    Anyway, enough ranting. Regai tipake kombi, zuva radoka.

    1. Hahaha now I am tempted to ask all of you to just copy and paste your comments into an article.

      As I read all these comments here I have a feeling of both helplessness and optimism. Helplessness because of the breath of the problem as all of you describe it but optimism because as one of you already mentioned realising and owning up to the problem gives us a platform to solve it.

      I hope more of us can own up to it and we actually get to do something

  12. My hope is that those who used to benefit from this diabolic system of patronage and corruption will realize that what goes around comes around, especially, in Africa. The Nigerians are green with envy- we have dislodged them from their number one slot in Africa! We have been set back to the Stone Age era, as a nation, in terms of development. Hopefully we aren’t merely applying lipstick on a pig !

    1. Whenit comes to education, we need to really think long and hard and be willing to make tough decisions if we are to bring back credibility of the sector. I don’t know what those actions will be but I don’t suspect they will be easy

  13. I have noticed a recurring trend on this platform.There is an undercurrent thread of malicious aspersions cast towards institutions of higher education in this country. I am not sure whether this is the obtaining mindset in the I.T industry or whether it is a theme fetishized by writers on this site. Having performed a deep read on this article i have come to the conclusion that the article is full of glaring factual misreadings and it is devoid of an iota of meaningful insight. As someone who has been educated in Zimbabwe’s universities and lectured at one i find this piece almost laughable.Had it not been for the stature of this website and some of the comments, i would not have taken the time to respond.As an academic i see it as my duty to fight ignorance and witlessness.
    The first issue i have with this article is the standing of the author. I find it extremely difficult to understand how a university dropout could claim such authority when it comes to commenting on the inner workings of higher education. The fact is, anyone who claims to have authority on a subject should demonstrate a mastering of the content and material of the topic. Some of the claims made by the author are seen from an outside looking in position which unfortunately reveals malice and ignorance. The author states ‘The reason I was frustrated by university was that my two options to walk out with the a degree from the University of Zimbabwe were either to cram and regurgitate textbooks verbatim or I had to cheat in exams. I chose to walk out without it’. The author is violent towards an educational system that he failed to operate in .This anger shows throughout the body of the essay and not surprisingly it clouds the author’s judgement such that it becomes a vindictive piece instead of a journalistic or objective one. As lecturers we had problems with students who chose not to refer to authorities like those found in textbooks.Referring to authority shows intricate engagement with concepts and higher level ideas .It forms as a base on which the student can produce more nuanced and refined critical opinions that higher education seeks to elicit. Failure to do this results in students not meeting the expectations of university and subsequently dropping out. I think this point is made clear through the author’s own submissions in the article.
    The author’s lack of familiarity with the broader higher education system is evident and it leads to unsubstantiated generals and untruths.The author takes their experiences at one university and extrapolates them to the higher education system as a whole. Anecdotal tales of widespread cheating,resubmitted papers,lecturers passing on projects etc, in one university are assumed to be repeated in ALL institutions across Zimbabwe and thus the higher education system as a whole. Nothing could be further from the truth. At the university i taught we managed to implement checks and balances to prevent this type of academic theft. Papers where submitted with a turnitin report, dissertations where co-marked by external academics. Lecture notes and any other such supplementary reading was rigidly supervised by senior academic staff.This was simply done by monitoring slides delivered in class,through the google classroom platform.This was easy to implement because all lectures where in power point form. While cheating is impossible to eliminate,it is a fallacy to bring the higher education sector into disrepute by claim widespread cheating without surveying,not all, but at least a substantial number of universities. Had the author completed his degree he would have been equipped with rigorous research methods with which to back his assertions with.
    The author opines ‘Those with qualifications may have earned them or they may have cheated into them or they may have earned them by being taught irrelevant stuff. Why bother checking qualifications? We can tell if someone is a good fit our own way’. The author applies a rudimentary conceptualization of a degree. I take particular exception to students being taught ‘irrelevant stuff’. Universities in Zimbabwe are intensely regulated and some would argue they are over regulated. Each university is given a charter through an act of parliament. This lends credibitlity because there arecertain benchmarks that have to be met before the charter is given.Then the universities themselves have internal regulations that they use to ensure quality. ZIMCHE then comes in and regulates these universities on a month by month basis.Finally the ministry acts as the overseer of all these processes. The fact that a student can be taught irrelevant things seems far fetched.ZIMCHE even assesses course outlines,exam scripts ,lecturer qualifications and experience to make sure no ‘irrelevant things’ are taught. What i suspect the author misreads is the fact that university students are taught higher level thought process. They are imparted with skills on problem solving and higher level thinking.This is so that they can respond to new problems and issues.Take for example a student learning a course on Shakespeare.One would not say that are graduate with a Shakespeare course is outdated and irrelevant because he authored plays in the 1400s.This is simply because a course on shakespeare gives the student analytical skills that can be applied to any form of modern literature.
    I feel the author has authored a piece that is devoid of merit.The piece is highly obtuse at best and at worst it is an anti-intellectual emotional rant.

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