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Opinion / Columnist

Probe lectureship quality in universities

01 Apr 2019 at 06:38hrs | Views
Government has adopted a stance of lenience towards university lecturers who do not hold doctorates. There has been growing calls in the academic spheres that lecturers with Masters degrees should be thawing by now. Despite the reprieve, this should not be a cue to relax for lecturers who are yet to attain their doctorates.

They should begin being useful in the creation of new knowledge to justify their existence in the corridors of academia. Under-skilled lecturers should utilise this window to equip themselves with the requisite qualifications because expedient waivers are usually short-lived.

The call for lecturers to attain doctorates is not an obsession with high sounding qualifications, but for the country to produce graduates with the ability to think critically. Who is better to lead such a process than someone who has researched to produce new knowledge in their respective field?

It is also important for the country to stay abreast with global trends, where it is common practice that those without doctorates usually work as lecturing assistants more than being full-on lecturers.

Currently in Zimbabwe, there are State universities where a whole faculty has one Professor and certain departments do not have a single lecturer with a doctorate. This puts into scrutiny the quality of researches being submitted by students as required by their courses.

Academic research is central to Zimbabwe's Vision 2030 which emphasises on academia being the foremost answer to the country's problems.

Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Professor Amon Murwira has continued to challenge institutions to abandon the theory heavy model and drift towards the practical. Government may want to come up with a model that expedites the pursuit of PhD programmes by lecturers, especially those in the university it runs.

It can come in at a cost level where there can be a fund set aside to finance the tuition of lecturers enrolled at PhD level or alternatively help with their research costs. People in local academia have been complaining over their remuneration and for them to be burdened with attaining a PhD within a certain time frame may increase calls for salary increment.

This comes against the backdrop of a rising cost of living in Zimbabwe. In the meantime, there is need for an academia led industrial recalibration.

Students and lecturers should utilise platforms available to them to problematise issues in society. Lecturers, those with the ideal qualifications and those without, should adopt a publish or perish approach to work.

The world has become dynamic, it would be dangerous for the country to formulate policy or make decisions on obsolete knowledge. Zimbabwe, for instance, right now is battling with effects of a Tropical Cyclone Idai which displaced hundreds of families.

In fields relating to disaster prediction and management, the whole academic space should be seized with the matter.

This will help the country and the region prepare better in future. We need to see breaks in topics that interrogate commonplace topics like the impact of social media.

In other countries, they wake up to reports of ground-breaking researches from their universities every now and then. With the amount of talent in the country, there is no reason why our country cannot boast of breaking barriers. This rises and falls on the quality of lectureship.

An audit into the country's State universities is due, where the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development takes stock of the people producing Zimbabwe`s human capital. Those with Masters degrees should state their intention to attain a doctorate within a specified time.

In the same vein, contractual adjustments may be useful on those with doctorates so that they continue publishing academic work. There should be an incentive for continued creation of knowledge so as to help the formulation of nuanced policies which speak to the country's needs. We need to start seeing steps towards the conducting of practicable research work instead of the theoretical thrust which currently prevails. According to the 2018 Critical Skills Audit, 37 percent of Zimbabwean graduates have critical skills.

This means our current research falls short in being relevant to the country at the moment. An answer has to be formulated fast, and the strategic rehabilitation should probe lecturers and the quality of their work.

Source - the herald
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