Africa University establishes medical school

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AFRICA University has revolutinalised its operations by establishing a medical school that offers programmes up to PHD, interim Vice-Chancellor, Professor Pamela Machakanja, has revealed.

Plans are also at an advanced stage for the varsity to establish the Faculty of Agricultural Engineering and Technology. Prof Machakanja made the disclosure at a STEM business luncheon held at a local hotel on Wednesday.

Prof Machakanja who was standing in for his boss, Professor Munashe Furusa, addressed delegates on the transformation of universities to anchor industrialisation and modernisation through research, innovation technology solutions and commercialisation.

She said AU would engage three United Methodist Church heath institutions –Mutambara, Old Mutare and Nyadire Mission Hospitals as teaching hospitals. Prof Machakanja said the decision to establish a medical school was triggered by a trip taken by officials from the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development and Vice-Chancellors to various countries across the world on a look-and-learn mission.

“As Africa University, our response to the stematisation philosophy was triggered by that visit. Since the return of our Vice-Chancellor, we had to take a dramatic turn to transform the university.

“First of all, we had seven faculties since our inception in 1992 to 2016. With the global trends of digitalisation, stematisation and modernisation, we had to make changes. So we streamlined the university to just three colleges that we are focusing on – The College of Business, Science, Peace, Leadership and Governance, The College of Social Science, Theology, Humanities and Education, and the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources Sciences,” said Prof Machakanja.

“It was a painful journey, but we had to do that. As part of responding to Government’s agenda on stematisation, we have selected our focus on the area of medicine. We have a College of Health Sciences which was mainly focusing on public health, undergraduate and masters’ programme. A dramatic shift in that department was decided about two months ago.

“Resources available, we want to have a strong Health Science Department with programmes up to PHD. As a UMC-related institution, we knew that starting a medical school is very expensive, so we had to look around within our constituency to see if we can anchor our medical school.

“We have already identified our UMC hospitals — Nyadire, Mutambara and Old Mutare as anchors of teaching universities that will make a transformation in Zimbabwe and Africa. We already have state-of-the-art health sciences lab with modern equipment.

“Again, I also like to emphasise that because we are a private university, so it also pushed us a little bit more to look for resources. I can say we are very strategic, robust, and vigorous in resource mobilisation,” said Prof Machakanja.

“We have a Clinical Research Centre, and we have partners who are willing to support us with medical equipment and experts. Some of the equipment has already come.

“We are having dialogue which is at advanced stage with local medical insurance provider to provide scholarships to train medical practitioners in the specialised fields. There is no time to sit back. You have to hit the ground running and that is what we are doing in terms of responding to that,” said Prof Machakanja.

She said experts, cost cutting, investment and resource mobilisation would be key to sustainability. “Because of these changes, we have already revamped the College of Health and we have a new Dean. We are also planning to establish a College of Engineering and Technology, with emphasis on Agricultural Engineering and Computer Science.

“So we have to take an audit of the resources that we have. We have the Faculty of Agriculture with the state-of-art equipment, we have 600 hectares of farmland, of which we are currently utilising only 80ha,” she said.

Prof Machakanja said AU had already secured two visiting professors to help establish the Agricultural Engineering Department and technical staff to revamp the existing curriculum.

AU has also hired a Computer Science expert, coming on board for a year to transform its Computer Science Department into Computer Engineering. – Manica Post