The world has moved into the fourth revolution which is characterised by innovation and high end or cutting edge industrial advancement. Zimbabwe is no exception as the country has adopted a new education curriculum which has a slant towards modern technological trends.
Previously, the education system in Zimbabwe was rated as Higher and Tertiary Education 3.0 (HTE 3.0). The HTE 3.0 model focused more on teaching, research and community service. The newly adopted model, HTE 5.0 focuses on innovation and industrialisation.
Since the turn of the century the country has been isolated owing to the illegal sanctions imposed on it by the West. This isolation resulted in the country technologically lagging behind by almost 20 years. In order to correct this position, the country has adopted HTE 5.0 seriously in order to retool and revive industriy using the latest technology.
The Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Professor Amon Murwira, has committed himself to see to it that the country’s education system spurs the country towards achieving Vision 2030 riding upon technological advancements and industrialisation. Prof Murwira’s thrust enjoys backing of President Emmerson Mnangagwa whose Vision 2030 is to transform the country’s economy into an upper middle income by the year 2030.
Relatedly, Government has released $700 000 for the setting up of innovation hubs at State universities. The programme has already seen the first beneficiary universities being the National University of Science and Technology (NUST), the Midlands State University (MSU), the University of Zimbabwe, (UZ) the Harare Institute of Technology (HIT), Zimbabwe Defence University and Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT). Completion of the infrastructure for the bubs is at the tertiary institutions is at different stages.
HIT has not disappointed as it recently announced that it has started manufacturing electricity transformers which would be sold to the national power utility, ZESA. This means that instead of expending the scarce foreign currency resources available to import transformers, ZESA simply places an order with HIT and the product would be delivered. In the process, ZESA will save the country a lot of foreign currency which will be channelled towards the expansion of power generation as well as other areas of pressing need such as medical drugs.
In 2003 and 2009 businessman and musician, Daniel Chingoma of Zimcopter fame came up with two versions of a helicopter which unfortunately were not allowed to fly by the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) as they did not meet aviation standards. Chingoma did not tire as he is currently working on his invention. Banking on the HTE 5.0 education model, Chingoma working under close and strict supervision of qualified aviation experts could see his project taking to the skies literally. His product could be used by farmers in spraying herbicides and curbing the damage by quelea birds in wheat crop thereby improving agricultural production.
Not to be left behind, CUT has embarked on scaling up the adoption of Artificial Insemination in cattle production. The country has been experiencing a shortage of quality bulls which, in turn, has affected the growth of the national herd. The project has the potential of harvesting seven million bull semen straws against a national demand of 1.5 million straws, the excess would be exported and rake in the much needed foreign currency. The programme would be beneficial to resettled and communal farmers in establishing competitive cattle herds. It would also come in handy in reviving commercial beef production in areas such as Masvingo and the Matabeleland South Province.
The Artificial Insemination Programme would also see the speedy resuscitation of the Cold Storage Company (CSC). CSC operations were affected by the shortage of beef cattle, among other challenges and this programme would fill that gap thus opening a channel for the resumption of beef exports to the lucrative European Union (EU) market.
On another front aimed at taking industrialisation to another level, CUT has plans of setting up an industrial hub. CUT Director of Innovation and Incubation, Dr Engelbert Takawira Kapuya, will be responsible for operationalising the Innovation Hub and the establishment of an Industrial Hub in Chinhoyi. Chinhoyi has been a service centre therefore; this development is most welcome as people from Mashonaland West Province will get quality assistance in their province instead of travelling to Harare.
On another welcome development, the Tobacco Research Board (TRB) in partnership with Mamsen Engineering has come up with energy –efficient Twin Turbo tobacco curing barn. The barn uses coal, saw dust, LP gas, bio fuels, wheat stalks, maize stover and hay to cure tobacco. This new technology will be useful to communal and small scale farmers so that they would realise meaningful profit margins from their enterprises. The advantage of this system is that it does not use an electrical or solar-powered fan.
Taking a stroll in Mbare’s Magaba and Siyaso would make one marvel at the goods that are being made in the two home industries. These goods range from window and door frames, wire mesh making, carpentry and detergent making, among others. Given proper training from the upcoming industrial hubs, those entrepreneurs can greatly improve their enterprise thereby growing their businesses and creating employment for others.
The struggling hardware industry where players like PG Industries and Border Timbers are operating below capacity creates opportunities for some small businesses to supply the market. With the necessary funding and close supervision of these universities and entrepreneurs could easily supply building supplies and other goods to the public.
Another area which would also benefit from Government’s technological thrust is through the use of Local Content Strategy (LCS) in production processes could reduce the country’s import bill. In this regard, Midlands farmer and businessman, Douglas Kwande has been producing 5 000 loaves of bread per day using locally grown wheat only. Going by his strategy, this would result in him spreading his wings to other parts of the country opening bakeries thereby, offering bread at affordable prices. In terms of his operations, it would result in reduced transport costs for bread as each bakery will be located closer to buyers. His initiative, if replicated to other parts of the country, could also save the country the foreign currency needed to import wheat.
In the 1980s during the days of Dzingai Mutumbuka as Minister of Education, the school curriculum contained a section on education with production. It stressed the importance of production as opposed to mere academic excellence. This needs to be revisited so that students will learn more on the production side of crops and livestock than focusing on theory. Those who went to school during that era will recall time for “art and craft” where pupils tried their hand at carving items out of wood. Resuscitation of such practical subjects will quench citizens’ thirst for quality furniture which will be produced locally instead of importing and wasting precious foreign currency.
On the agricultural front, the adoption of the new education model would go a long way in securing food security. For a long time farmers in both communal and resettlement areas have been struggling to come up with meaningful yields from their farming operations. the manufacturing of easy-to-use farming implements which are affordable to most farmers would also go a long way in improving agricultural production.
Climate change-induced erratic rainfall patterns have not spared Zimbabwe from regular droughts. In order for farmers to get better yields in a good or bad season, they need good and water saving irrigation systems. It is now incumbent upon graduates from both universities and polytechnic colleges to design simple irrigation systems which can be efficiently and effectively used by all farmers.
Zimbabwe is experiencing power shortages. It just takes a little effort to come up with a local model of solar panel which can be used to power most homes especially those in rural areas and other Government institutions. Such an invention would see ZESA making a lot of saving in terms of foreign currency.