Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
PRESIDENT Mnangagwa has challenged universities to be actively involved in the country’s economic growth through using skills and knowledge as opposed to being spectators in the national development agenda.
The President said this yesterday at Lupane State University (LSU) 11th graduation ceremony in Lupane Matabeleland North where he presided over the ceremony.
He also commissioned US$11 million-dollar female students’ hostels, kitchen and dining hall complex at the university.
Before commissioning the new buildings, the President laid the foundation stone for a Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, that the university intends to construct soon.
The Chancellor of all State universities said higher and tertiary institutions should leverage their skills for national economic development.
President Mnangagwa challenged LSU to locate its thrust in the Matabeleland North province’s economic growth.
“In line with the devolution agenda and our quest to create vibrate provincial economies, LSU must situate its mandate taking into account the vast and unique natural resources endowments in Matabeleland North province, these include coal, coal bed methane gas, gold, tin, wildlife, forestry, fisheries among others. It is incumbent on the university to develop contemporary competencies and skills with this reality in mind,” said President Mnangagwa.
“The university cannot afford to be a spectator in the various developments within the province and the nation as a whole. Developments such as the Victoria Falls Stock Exchange, the tourism corridor along the Zambezi River, the ongoing coal mining projects and their energy generation potential must be of interest to you.”
He said universities programming should set the tone for industrialisation and modernisation of the country in line with the national thrust.
President Mnangagwa said for universities to transform the economy through skills, research and knowledge, they should not leave behind local communities.
“You must therefore correctly position yourself with regards to new programme development and areas of research, innovation and technological development. LSU must perceive its mandate and potential in the context of modern, industrialised and developed Zimbabwe which is envisaged by vision 2030,” said President Mnangagwa.
“In view of the centrality of agriculture in all parts of our country and the apparent impact of climate change, the university must scale up its research, innovations and interventions which relate to agriculture in arid regions. To this end, this institution is challenged to be an active facilitator in the implementation of the Presidential Climate Proofed Pfumvudza /Intwasa Programme and the Presidential Horticulture Scheme, within surrounding areas for the benefit of students and community at large.”
President Mnangagwa said the Government wants communities to be productive driven as opposed to being aid dependent.
Turning to the new commissioned buildings which consist of three hostels and kitchen and dining hall facility, President said the facilities will enable students to focus on their studies without the inconvenience of commuting.
He pledged Government’s support to develop infrastructure at universities as they are central in the economic transformation agenda.
“I thus, applaud the university for the construction of modern and impressive, state-of-the-art hostels and dining facilities. This infrastructure will enhance the ambience of this campus and give wholesome learning experiences for scholars from across the country and beyond,” he said.
“I challenge students passing through this institution to use these facilities appropriately and sustainably so that successive students can enjoy the same benefits. In line with the motto of our university, “Building Communities Through Knowledge” I appeal to those who will be accommodated on campus, within these hostels, to always respect the norms and cultural values of the surrounding communities informed by Ubuntu/Hunhu.”
President Mnangagwa pledged Government support to develop universities and urged the institutions to use the Public Private Partnership model to speed up infrastructure development.
“At a lower level, I challenge Members of Parliament to take up and prudently utilise Constituency Development Funds (CDF) to develop our communities, especially education and health care facilities. Appropriately used, constituency funds will augment projects implemented through the devolution funds, thereby speedily improving the quality of life of our people,” he said.
He commended the high enrolment of female students at LSU saying it is key to gender mainstreaming.
Speaking during the same event, Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Amon Murwira said his ministry was in a drive to transform the country’s economy through education and utilising the country’s resources.
He said the ministry has a target of producing not just skilled graduates but those who can solve problems affecting the nation.
LSU Vice Chancellor Prof Pardon Kuipa commended Government for supporting the infrastructural development at universities.
He said the US$11-million hostels and kitchen and dining hall complex would not have been built without Government’s involvement.
Prof Kuipa said the growth of Matabeleland North provincial capital, Lupane, should be centred around the university.
He said the construction projects would result in LSU fully locating to the main campus in Lupane as renting premises for the Faculty of Commerce in Bulawayo was costly. — @nqotshili.