AT the tertiary level of Zimbabwe’s education system, the Master of Business Administration (MBA) programmes have dominated postgraduate training curricula across virtually all of Zimbabwe’s universities.
The MBA graduates have capacity to pay fees, hence the programmes have become a cash cow for universities.
On the other hand, the quality of these programmes has been questionable in many instances.
Some analysts have observed that many MBA-holding captains of industry have not had much impact in keeping their companies afloat.
Inflated salaries and benefits that include very expensive cars for the executives have not been matched by higher levels of productivity and innovation in running some of these businesses. Many local companies, weighed down by remuneration costs that are not matched by the productivity of their diploma-wielding staffers, have deteriorated to the point of collapse.
May be the ethics content of these MBA courses also needs to be re-examined to improve corporate discipline.
However, the overall picture has been one where individuals scramble to acquire paper qualifications (diplomas) on the basis of which they claim higher salaries and pecks that, in many cases, the employing businesses cannot sustain.
In some instances, diplomas have been corruptly acquired.
In such instances, holders of the fake qualifications, who are promoted to higher office, literally oversee the collapse of those entities.
In the area of agricultural extension, Certificate in Agriculture graduates from colleges like Mlezu and Esigodini, among others, were engaged as extension workers who often walked long distances to visit and provide training and technical backup to farmers in rural areas.
Many competent ‘master farmers’ graduated under these hard-working extension staff.
Their more educated colleagues, with a Diploma in Agriculture from colleges like Chibero or Gwebi, were stationed in offices, attending to administrative work.
Those with Bachelor’s degrees from universities were likely to be stationed in provincial capitals, also doing administrative paper work and attending meetings.
Those with a postgraduate Master’s degree were the higher elites who, likely, were stationed at head office in Harare; only visiting the field on special occasions and travelling abroad for conferences where the boss allowed such luxuries.
In this system, the knowledge and skills of the more educated have not been readily availed to the end-users, the farmers.
To escape the hard, but essential work on the ground, all staff have worked hard to acquire higher qualifications, to rise higher in the ranks.
Promotion to higher grades has become, in many cases, synonymous with doing less work.
And yet, the opposite should be true; the more educated the population becomes, the higher the expected productivity in terms of both quantity and quality!
Unfortunately, in Zimbabwe, the increase in paper qualifications has not been matched by increase in productivity in many instances.
The more educated seem to have much less positive impact on productivity on the ground.
The educated seem to have come in to swell the ranks of non-delivering bureaucrats.
Many civil service departments have hierarchies of elites who become less productive as they acquire more ‘educational diplomas’.
This scenario defeats the whole purpose of education which aims to increase productivity.
Ways must be found to ensure that the higher level skills impact the end-users’ needs — the farmers in the case of agriculture. The training regimes at schools and colleges must inculcate in trainees a strong practical work ethic.
Teachers must teach by example.
We need a whole revolution in the education sector to augment the new curriculum in the primary and secondary schools.
After independence, the Zimbabwe Government encouraged its personnel to acquire higher qualifications.
The aim was to deploy more advanced technical support to various sectors of the economy.
While in other more productive economies, the more educated are also the more productive, in Zimbabwe’s case, the highly qualified often do very little work outside essential paperwork. Supervision of lower ranks is largely cursory.
The diploma-waving senior staff expect higher salaries, allowances and entitlement to luxury vehicles at taxpayers’ expense.
Many have limited impact on the overall productivity of the organisation.
The desire to have a higher degree is not matched by greater work output but is considered a qualification for entitlement to higher level benefits with minimal contribution to productivity on the ground.
This is typically a ‘trickle down’ arrangement which unfortunately does not generate the goods and services required by the economy.
The low productivity across various economic sectors in Zimbabwe is therefore largely a product of our poor education system that churns out graduates who are unproductive diploma-wielding academic elites.
The only evidence that many Zimbabweans are educated is their ability to speak in English.
People’s expectation that the educated can help solve our societal problems is hopelessly misplaced.
Some will ask of the educated: “Akafundei?” (What is s/he educated in?)
We have problems that need solving!
More often than not, these fresh graduates from colleges will explain that what they learned cannot be explained in the local Ndebele or Shona language, but in English; a clear admission that there was no learning but memorisation of various paragraphs from books.
The ‘cut and paste’ nature of many Zimbabweans’ learning experience in a ‘pass exams or else’ renders graduates totally incapable of re-arranging and reconstructing ideas and knowledge to address new situations.
The exam credits those who reproduce textbook material.
They pass with ‘A’ grades but are incapable of translating their ‘knowledge’ into practical solutions to everyday challenges.
The answer to the question: “Akafundei?” then becomes “Hapana,” nothing was learnt at school!
Unfortunately, the so-called learned Zimbabweans have few or zero problem solving skills or innovative ideas that can take us on to Vision 2030.
Education 5.0, although 40 years late, is a welcome educational revolution where the educated will lead with innovation and industrialisation to create the necessary goods and services for Vision 2030!
The new thrust of Education 5.0 should work to cure our education system and the economy of two main scourges: Academic elitism and low productivity.
The diploma disease is characterised by a desire to achieve higher qualifications so as to get promotion, earn more money and, regrettably, do less (productive) work.
Education 5.0 will prime graduates to set up businesses and contribute to the productive sector.
That way we travel the route to Vision 2030.
The challenge is to get more players in the education sector to see the light and buy into Vision 2030!