Change for relevance

The IDEAS project team members made a short visit to Zimbabwe in August of this year. During this visit, several meetings and one workshop with prominent academics and officials in the Zimbabwe higher education sector were held, being facilitated by the Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU). It was perhaps the best and worst of times for the country, it seemed, as this period coincided with the post-election- pre- constitutional court case period that followed the elections that had been held the previous month.  One thing was resolved, however, that the country was gearing up to make changes, so as to remain a relevant player on the world map.

During the various interactions that the team had with players in the higher education sector of Zimbabwe, it was clear that change was the order of business. Positive sentiments were expressed over proposed policy changes by the government that will allow students access to loans, as well much welcomed participation from the private sector, particularly that of Econet’s (a large mobile phone and internet service provider in the country) ‘eduzones’, which were being set up in universities to provide free internet access to students. 

Another exciting possibility was the push towards the production of ‘real products’, through more directed efforts to teach research, consultancy, innovation and industrialization. With all these changes in the pipelines, ZOU very much welcomed the workshop on learning design and technology, being very keen on learning international best practice, and how this can begin to be contextualised and applied to the Zimbabwe distance learning sector.

Challenges do still remain, however, for the Zimbabwean higher education sector, especially that of low brand power and regional and international competition from better funded universities, specifically those in South Africa, which attract brilliant students and academics alike away from the country.  In spite of this, there is an apparent determination within the sector to become a relevant and key higher education player on the African continent.

Mwazvita Dalu

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