State-owned telecommunication company TelOne today held a graduation ceremony for students who were at the company’s Learning Centre. The event was attended by government officials including the Minister for ICTs, representatives from the National University of Science and Technology (NUST), The Director-General of the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) and many others.
Below is the speech delivered by TelOne Chairman, Dr Zimbango
A very good day to you all. I am pleased to stand before you at the occasion of the 7th TelOne Centre for Learning Graduation Ceremony where families celebrate their effort, hard work and progress while we at TelOne celebrate the impact we continue to make in the country.
Allow me to begin by expressing my hearty congratulations to the graduands for successfully completing this important milestone in your lives. Your dedication, hard work and perseverance has today paid off. Today marks the beginning of the real life journey for the graduands who will leave here as full graduates and ready to conquer the world of work. We are positive that TCFL has polished you and with the knowledge and diverse skills you have gained, you will flourish in your different career paths.
Honourable Minister, invited guests I stand here today very proud and excited that other that the celebration of 166 ICT diplomas being conferred today, we are delighted to also celebrate our maiden Telecoms degree class of 34 students who recently graduated at our associate University, the National University of Science and Technology (NUST). Indeed, we celebrate the milestone and congratulations to TelOne Centre for Learning. Today we have some of the Telecoms degree class students physically present with us while others are attending virtually. I would like to ask the graduates to stand up so that we can honour them! (pause for the 3 graduates to stand). Kindly give them a round of applause…Thank You.
Ladies and gentlemen, as you can see we have a few graduands here today due to the need to reduce our numbers. What is important to note is that those that we have here physically are the ones who have prizes and special performance awards. Because we have such confidence in the skills that this centre is imparting on our students, we have a policy for automatic job offer to some graduates who get certain prizes. Over the past 5 years, we have managed to employ 15 TCFL diploma prize winners starting with only 2 in 2016 and taking 5 last year. This has proven to be a useful strategy as we have managed to harness exceptional talent. I will be happy to share that the young lady who is managing the TelOne Cloud Environment and our cloud services is a product of the automatic recruitment of TCFL prize winners. Another individual also out of the TCFL was the driver of the establishment of the TelOne virtual call centre which is an innovation that had to be deployed in response to the COVID-19 induced limitations during the hard lockdown. These are just a few examples to showcase the quality of graduates and the handshakes that we have tried to create between TCFL and the parent company.
Honourable Minister, distinguished guests, we gather every year to celebrate TCFL graduations, we are proud that the Centre has continually distinguished itself as not only a centre of excellence in Zimbabwe but also in the SADC region and beyond as we have TCFL alumni in all these places. With an annual enrolment of 760 students, TCFL boasts a market share of 43% of the annual ICT enrolment across colleges of equal stature in Zimbabwe. This is to say, that TCFL currently has the highest concentration of ICT students in the country.
Our programmes endeavour to fulfil the skills deficit as identified in the National Skills Audit Report while also aligning to Education 5.0 which speaks to innovation, problem solving and value creation.
The Centre has long been a provider of ICT skills in SADC and the wider diaspora and I am delighted to confirm that we are positioning to see an expansion buoyed by the widespread adoption of online learning. Our projection is to grow into the SADC region significantly through accreditation with the South African Qualifications Authority. This accreditation will assist TCFL in penetrating the SADC market with its training offerings with a specific target of enrolling at least 500 foreign students by Dec 2023. As Board, we have given this specific mandate to management and we are positive that this is achievable. We will be knocking on different stakeholders especially in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs seeking support as we build momentum on the regional expansion ambition.
Further, TCFL is also poised to become a centre of Cyber Security Training. The cyber security space has become more critical now than ever before more-so with the increase in cyber-attacks that have caused untold disruption of operations for many organisations internationally and indeed right here in Zimbabwe. We have therefore started to build the centre’s capacity through procurement of the relevant equipment and identification of the requisite skills. We have gone further to establish a partnership with the Indian Institute of Hardware Technology (IIHT) Midrand, which will be the Launchpad that will essentially see TCFL offer a wider range of cybersecurity training, continuous professional development as well as consultancy right from inception of the Cyber Security Training Institute.
Honourable Minister, Ladies and gentlemen, we have no doubt with all hands on deck, TCFL is poised for rapid growth even in the face of the COVID-19 induced limitations. As we have witnessed today with the launch of the first greenhouse under the Smart Agriculture initiative, the centre is being driven to be a true leader in innovation and ICTs. Todays heralds a new area of exploration that TCFL is venturing into and has again partnered with industry experts, Easiseeds, a company wholly owned by Zimbabweans, for the Research into smart farming Technology, the provision of smart farming skills to local farmers as well as the generation of foreign currency through the export of organic horticultural products. Under this arrangement, TCFL is expecting to generate at least USD 10,000 per month in revenue through a revenue share plan with Easisseeds, selling of the Internet of Things solutions, training of farmers and technicians as well as selling of actual produce.
Furthermore, this new area will further entrench TCFL’s relevance to the national economy through developing much needed farming technological innovations that will be deployed to bring more efficiency to smart agriculture. Beyond the innovations, the centre will also be training users in the use of such technology as well as providing on-site support to the farmers.
Honourable Minister, Invited Guests, TCFL venture into Agriculture Technology, Research & Development dovetails into Vision 2030 which is anchored on economic development through the use of ICTs. We even more excited by this endeavour as we will be able to deliver affordable technology to our farmers and support growth in production and consequently economic growth.
As you are aware, agriculture contributes the larger part of Zimbabwe’s Gross Domestic Product, hence the interest to facilitate the inculcation of IoTs in smart agriculture. In this regard, we are upbeat about exploring such technology further and to continue to impart skills, knowledge and expertise for the benefit of the wider national economy.
Beyond what you are witnessing here today, TCFL is working towards being an ICT Specialist University by 2025. This transformation is planned over the next four years to 2024 through the development of requisite facilities, transformation of learning services as well as phased structural changes. We are appreciative of the guidance that the higher education regulatory authority (Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education) have been giving us. This is certainly not an easy journey, yet we are encouraged by the commitment and drive that our Government has is supporting both the expansion and transformation of our education in Zimbabwe. By this undertaking to transform into a specialised University, TCFL is poised to deliver more advanced ICT and Technology programmes and skills, more innovations and more service and relevance to Zimbabwe and beyond.
Ladies and gentleman, today’s graduation therefore, provides a good opportunity for us to not only showcase our work through churning out qualified individuals but to also continue to position and assert ourselves for this broader vision. We are undoubtedly appreciative of the support we continue to get from our parent Ministry – Ministry of ICT, Postal and Courier Services; The Higher and Tertiary education authorities that includes the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education Science and Technology Development through ZIMCHE, HEXCO and our Associate University NUST. It is this association and accreditation which continue to strengthen our offering to the market. Indeed, we are also thankful to all our stakeholders and clients especially in the ICT sector who have continued to support us over the years,
Allow me ladies and gentleman to conclude my speech by once again congratulating our esteemed graduands, their parents and guardians and of course the staff here at TCFL for a job well done.