Prosper Ndlovu, feature film
ZIMBABWE’S KNOWLEDGE AND SKILLS SECTOR, largely dominated by state universities and colleges, is undergoing a critical transformation following the adoption of “Education 5.0” by the Ministry of Further and Higher Education, science and technological development.
The traditional tripartite mission of the teaching, research and community service sector has now been revised to align with the urgent national ambition under the Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa to achieve middle-income economy status higher by 2030.
Institutions of higher learning are now mandated not only to teach, research and render service to the community, but also to lead Zimbabwe’s innovation and industrialization.
As part of Education 5.0, state universities should, in particular, drive results-oriented national development activities towards a competitive, modern and industrialized Zimbabwe.
Essentially, the industry must champion problem solving for value creation, champion modernization and industrialization by adopting disruptive technologies in line with global trends while combining them with a spirit of business rather than generating job seekers.
Obviously, this mandate requires massive investments in university and college infrastructure in areas such as student hostels, classrooms, well-equipped laboratories, innovation hubs, ICT, etc.
This would not only help incentivize the retention and attraction of qualified personnel, but also ensure that these centers are adequately equipped to deliver top-notch training, capable of exploiting the economic opportunities available in the communities of home to create university-related start-ups and ultimately businesses that contribute to the national stock market.
The essence of developing a strong infrastructure in universities across the country is strongly expressed in a recent study conducted by Bindura University of Science Education (BUSE) Professor Dr. Charles Massimo titled: “Critical Success Factors Model and Implementation of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) for Educational Infrastructure Development in Zimbabwe’s State Universities”.
Given the limited fiscal space, the study recognizes that the burden of university infrastructure development cannot be borne solely by the government, hence the need to embrace PPPs, which are increasingly seen as a viable way to develop infrastructure in a cost-effective and sustainable way.
The study therefore sought to understand the experiences of Zimbabwe’s state universities in using PPPs for educational infrastructure development.
By examining the evolution of PPPs as an alternative financing option for education infrastructure development, it analyzes the adequacy of existing regulatory frameworks governing the implementation of infrastructure PPPs and explores critical factors hindering adoption. of the model.
The study further proposes an “Education Infrastructure Critical Success Factor Model (EICSFM)” that could be leveraged to promote the effective implementation of education infrastructure PPPs in Zimbabwe’s state universities.
In this study, Dr. Massimo argues that despite compelling empirical evidence that PPPs are feasible and capable of injecting dynamism into the public sector, the higher education sector, particularly state universities in Zimbabwe, n has yet to fully exploit this window of opportunity amid notable educational infrastructure. visible shortcomings in most institutions.
Despite the supportive policy frameworks, Dr Massimo says there has generally been little inertia in the adoption and implementation of education infrastructure PPPs in Zimbabwe’s state universities since their adoption and standardization in 2010 , as an alternative procurement approach.
“Only a few state universities have tried the approach at a slow pace and some have since abandoned it despite available regulatory frameworks allowing them to adopt PPPs in infrastructure development, such as operational guidelines for the implementation implementation of joint venture partnerships in public institutions of Higher and Higher Education and the Joint Venture Act (Chapter 22:22),” he says.
“Many state universities, however, have yet to take the initiative, regardless of the government’s willingness to implement PPPs to reduce the infrastructure deficit exacerbated by rising university enrollments. students and decreasing capital budget support.”
According to Dr. Massimo, the results of the study clearly indicate that the effective implementation of PPPs in the country’s university infrastructure project is hampered by a range of factors that need to be addressed urgently.
These included; lack of indemnities or guarantees of sovereignty, lack of prior capacity to manage PPPs within state universities, unstable macro-economic environment, limited local financial markets, lack of financial resources available for feasibility studies, absence of land ownership rights by state universities, insufficient support from the line ministry, and the lack of bankability and attractiveness of some projects in state universities.
In order to achieve tangible results, Dr. Massimo suggests that the government should take a proactive stance in establishing a business-friendly operating environment for PPP arrangements in Zimbabwe’s state universities.
He notes, in particular, that some of the regulatory policy frameworks such as the Joint Venture Act (Chapter 22:22) are biased towards using PPPs for economic infrastructure rather than social infrastructure development.
Therefore, the new Education Infrastructure Critical Success Factor Model for Implementing PPPs in State Universities in Zimbabwe offers a holistic approach to the adoption and implementation of PPPs in state universities. Higher Education.
“The study recommends that state universities develop business-focused approaches to their operations if they are to attract private investors into their PPP deals,” Dr. Massimo says in his summary.
“The research also recommends that there is a sector-specific legal and institutional regulatory framework for the implementation of PPPs in state universities. The study further recommended that state universities be granted land ownership rights in the form of title deeds, that national financial markets be stable, that PPP projects be bankable, and that transparency be needed in the procurement process.
“If these proposed recommendations are adopted, state universities will be able to address infrastructure challenges,” he adds.
The urgency of developing a strong university infrastructure cannot be overstated given the increase in the student population from 2,240 in 1980 to over 200,000 students, which has exacerbated the need for investment in learning spaces, accommodation facilities, recreational facilities and other support facilities, says Dr. Massimo.
Quoting from the Ministry’s Investor’s Handbook (2017), he notes that this number, however, is not commensurate with the educational infrastructure available, as only 15-20% of the student population in public higher education institutions can be accommodated in internal residence.
According to the ministry handbook, there were 69,973 students enrolled in state universities across the country in 2017 and the same source says 75% of them did not have access to on-campus accommodation facilities. .
Lupane State University (LSU), which operates partly out of Bulawayo, and Gwanda State University, are among the institutions that operate without adequate learning infrastructure, student accommodation and personnel, among other key infrastructure gaps. The National University of Science and Technology (Nust) has also struggled over the years to develop adequate hostels for students.
“The rapid growth in university enrollment has resulted in demands for services and accommodation exceeding the capacity of infrastructure and services. About US$3.7 billion is needed to cover the educational infrastructure gap in Zimbabwe’s tertiary institutions,” says Dr Massimo citing official government sources.
Also in the study, the Southern African Universities Association (SARUA) also notes that public universities in Zimbabwe have a priority need for teaching and laboratory space, administrative offices, staff accommodation as well as than research facilities.
Due to the apathy of implementing PPPs in this sector, Dr Massimo says government has been left to be the primary financier of education infrastructure at a time when the financial space for education projects investment is limited and at the same time universities are increasing in number. Numbers.
“The resulting effect has been under-investment in the development of educational infrastructure in this sector; a situation that would have been mitigated by the effective implementation of PPPs,” he adds.
“Inadequate educational infrastructure such as teaching and laboratory space, administrative offices, staff and student housing, and research facilities have various implications for quality assurance, particularly in state universities, which are centers of knowledge generation.”
Furthermore, the BUSE speaker states that refined explanations to account for the factors impeding the departure of PPPs from educational infrastructure in Zimbabwe’s state universities have yet to be presented. The critical success factors (CSFs) for its effective implementation have also not been established, he argues.
Dr. Massimo therefore calls for a thorough exploration of sector specific experiences with PPPs and the establishment of sector specific CSFs for effective implementation of infrastructure projects in Zimbabwean universities.
These will be more crucial if the expected results of PPPs to break the intergenerational transmission of the scarcity of educational infrastructure are to be realised, he concludes.