27 October 2017

Zimbabwe: Bindura University Mediocrity Exposed

A recent staff audit at Bindura University of Science Education (BUSE) reveals a massive shortage of professors and teaching assistants, among other serious shortcomings compromising the quality of learning at the institution.

The Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education (ZIMCHE), which carried out the audit, declared that "a university with a scarcity of professors is not worth existing" in its recommendations, as it urged the authorities to take urgent corrective measures.

The assessment report, which puts all the university's faculties under the microscope, examined a number of determinants including the staff-to-student ratio, curriculum quality, leadership structure and teaching staff.

Auditors looked at the faculties of Commerce, Agriculture, Social Sciences and Humanities, Science as well as Science and Education.

Shortcomings were observed in all faculties, resulting in questions being asked about the quality of education being offered by the institution.

A review of the faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities shows that the ratio of professors stands at 26%.

"The faculty has only one teaching assistant and no technicians/technical demonstrators who are meant to assist lecturers and students. Lecturers should have adequate time to carry out research and community service which is not easy with such limited support," noted the audit report.

An appraisal of the faculty of science also shows similar trends, with a deficit in professors whose ratio is pegged at 19,44%. The faculty has two teaching assistants.

Auditors observed that the faculty of commerce was not operating in line with ZIMCHE guidelines.

"A number of PhD holders in the Faculty are not tenured," read part of the report.

"Although some PhD holders, like Dr (Felix) Chari and Dr (Roselyn) Karambakuwa, are tenured, they are still in Grade 6. This is an anomaly observed in all other faculties and relates to university policy of employment and promotion that is not aligned to what has been stipulated by ZIMCHE guidelines."

The report further states that there "is a low number of PhD holders within the faculty of Commerce at 21,8%."

ZIMCHE also questioned the competence of the team leading the faculty.

"The Faculty of Commerce is headed by an Executive Dean. The Executive Dean, Professor (Blessing) Maumbe, is not a tenured academic member of staff but employed on a five-year contract.

"There were questions about his qualifications in Agricultural Economics and their adequacy and relevance to lead a Faculty of Commerce. It was felt that a person with Commerce background would be more appropriate to lead the faculty and also provide the necessary academic leadership.

Ideally, the Executive Dean should come from one of the departments in the faculty. Professor Maumbe's qualifications best suit the Faculty of Agriculture and Environmental Science," the audit report says.

The audit noted that the Faculty of Agriculture did not have adequately trained staff, among other shortcomings.

"The report shows that there is a small number of PhD holders at 28.2%. It was revealed that the faculty will start a Food Security programme in August 2017 but this has not yet been accredited by ZIMCHE, something that is worrisome," says the report.

"It is advisable to have the curriculum vetted first than starting something that may have issues of concern in the future."

In the Faculty of Science, the audit revealed "that there are few PhD holders (19.44%)" and that "there is room for improvement."

ZIMCHE proposed a raft of recommendations that can be adopted to address the challenges besetting the university.

"BUSE should use ZIMCHE guidelines in processing promotions. The stiff processing instrument in place serves no purpose.

It will never help the university to achieve the results expected Vis a Vis its mandate.

It is serving the few at the top who are suppressing those at the bottom and in fact this is unprofessional conduct. Immediate action needs to be taken by management.

"A university with a scarcity of Professors is not worth existing. BUSE should rectify this without delay so that it becomes pivotal in supporting and impacting directly and positively on national programmes."

The audit said the shortage of teaching assistants was unacceptable.

"There is no shortage of teaching assistants and technicians in the country. Therefore, the low numbers of technical support staff is not palatable. BUSE need to rectify this without delay," the audit says.

"It is not enough to have one teaching assistant or one Technician for each department. There is need for each thematic area within a programme (department) to be adequately served. The technicians need laboratory assistants as well. The Faculty of Agriculture and Environmental Science need also field technicians."

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