MUTARE – Top educationists have slammed Zimbabweans for snubbing polytechnic colleges in preference for universities, only for them to be stuck with degrees but without employment.
Mutare Polytechnic College principal Poniso Watema and tertiary education expert Hardson Kwandai said most people underrate polytechnic training institutions because they generally do not award degrees.
They argued that unlike degrees, polytechnic qualifications equipped students for self and informal employment.
Zimbabwe has around 10 polytechnic colleges, with some offering degree programmes of late.
Watema said her college was struggling to enrol as few as 10 students for some of their practical programmes like wood technology.
“The problem is with parents who still consider practical courses as only suitable for students they think are not academically gifted. It’s very sad,” she told the Daily News.
Kwandai concurred, blaming universities for not researching about the job market and using curriculums that are out of sync with the prevailing economic environment.
He said most university degrees on offer are poorly attuned to help graduates perform effectively and blend in the country’s current economic situation.
“We do not study the field where we claim to be specialists . . . other countries like the US and Canada have been doing it from the 1950s. China was very smart . . . they sent people there to study and are now doing very well. “You cannot just produce graduates without having a clear focus in terms of what they can do,” said Kwandai, who holds a higher education PHD.
He said Zimbabwe was not benefitting from diploma education because people are obsessed with acquiring degrees.
“Parents should be well aware that it is not enough to send a child to university without considering what they are going to do.”
He said most universities across the African continent were offering redundant degrees, resulting in many jobless graduates, because of lack of research on training needed in a given political and economic environment.
“How many people are unemployed? So many, but we continue to produce the same skills. There is no link between the labour market and the institutions of higher learning.
“Reason, there is no research as to who do we want to produce. The problem is not just in Zimbabwe but Africa as well,” Kwandai said.
He said students must interrogate and understand the link between skills and opportunities.
“Higher education is not something that you can study for one year and you come to a full understanding of it. Employers, labour unions should understand it . . . and student unions too. They should not only demand food for students.
“They should know whether what they are studying is worthwhile. Universities should also provide evidence of this by showing what former students are doing as a result of the training they got from each degree programme,” Kwandai said. – Daily News