We are glad to announce that, the ZIMCHE has now prepared a summary of universities’ responses on a survey that we conducted in conjunction with all our 21 universities regarding their preparedness against the challenges that they are facing in higher education in the country because of the COVID 19 pandemic. All our universities were very clear as to what needs to be done so that they are prepared to confront the spread and impact of Covid-19 pandemic in our institutions and on teaching and learning.
As indicated in this document, the major challenges that were faced by universities were mainly how to cope with the limited resources for online teaching and learning; and assessing and examining students online. A second major challenge was vaccination hesitancy among some staff members and students in some universities. The report that was produced by the ZIMCHE makes several recommendations which are to be taken up and implemented by higher education institutions and the ZIMCHE.
As the ZIMCHE, we would like to thank, first and foremost, our Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science, Innovation, and Technology Development for supporting the ZIMCHE financially so that we were able to conduct this survey. Secondly, we would like to thank the Vice Chancellors and senior management in universities for allowing us to conduct this survey among staff and students in our universities. Thirdly, we want to thank academics, support staff, and students in our universities who took part in the survey. Finally, we want to thank the Life and Health Sciences Directorate team at the ZIMCHE who led this study namely Ms. F Mutanhaurwa (Acting Personal Assistant), Mrs. B. Nhemachena (Officer), Prof. F. Z. Gumbo (Chief Director); and the ICT Directorate: Mr. S. Mathaba (Technical Assistant) and Dr. G. Hapanyengwi (Director).
What is clear from this survey is that the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the way we teach, and the way students will be assessed and examined in future. Therefore, we are glad to note that, staff and students in our universities have already accepted the “new normal” of virtual or remote teaching and learning in the academy. To this end, all our universities are now taking advantage of the affordances of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in terms of online teaching and learning and how students will continue to be assessed and examined virtually.
We thank the Honourable Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science, Innovation, and Technology Development, Prof. dr. A. Murwira and the Permanent Secretary in our parent Ministry, Prof. F. Tagwira, for their continued support in our universities in terms of funding and the provision of ICT equipment and bandwidth so that universities can cope with the deleterious impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. We strongly recommend that, universities should continue to be innovative and, in the process, change their genetic code inside out so that universities and academics are able to cope with the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the core business of the universities which is teaching, learning, research, innovation, commercialization and industrialization. For our universities to survive in this new era, they must continue to re-think and re-imagine threats and opportunities; and pressures and uncertainties facing them at the present and in the future. In fact, all our Vice Chancellors have embraced innovation as a key tool in the academy for combating this pandemic.
What all this means is that, the transformation of the Zimbabwean university needs to be accelerated so that academics and managers embrace innovative ways of the utilization of the affordances of ICTs. As opined by Albert Einstein, “problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them”. Therefore, for us to be able to practice what Linda Darling-Hammond and Jeannie Oakes (2019:54) and her colleagues refer to as “deep learning” in the university we need to establish continuous professional development programs (CPD) that prepare academics to cope with the present and the future in terms of the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic on university education. This means developing a vision of professional practice which focuses on a critical approach to pedagogical discourse practices that enhance, inter alia the following:
• The academics’ knowledge of their students and how they engage with online content, the academics, and students amid the COVID 19 pandemic; and
• Knowledge of subject matter by academics in the university with a focus on curriculum transformation and renewal considering Education 5.0 and issues related to epistemological access by students and how the COVID 19 pandemic has disrupted the way students learn traditionally.
Hence the need for a multi, intra and transdisciplinary approach to curriculum renewal and Education
These challenges call for an approach to change by Vice Chancellors and university leadership in which they adopt a change management model as argued for by Lyman and Daloisio (2017:17) in which the leadership takes an “outside-in approach to change”. Here the Vice Chancellor and her or his management team sets the direction and pace of the organization, identify critical goals, and set the strategic priorities of the change to achieve the desired results as opined by Lyman and Daloisio (2017:17).
For us as the ZIMCHE, this study has revealed that, universities have developed ways of coping with change and able to assist students so that they get to a zone of proximal development where they are able to engage in what Waghid (2014:67) refers to as rhizomatic pedagogical encounters which enhance situated learning and the development of communities of practices among students and academics. Almost all the 21 universities have had to re-invent themselves so that they can cope with institutional transformation as required by the provisos of a heritage-based Education 5.0. The focus is to continually reinvent the university so that it is ahead of changes in its environment if it is to remain relevant.
- Darling-Hammond, L. and Oakes, J. (2019). Preparing Teachers for Deeper Learning. Cambridge
- Lyman, K. R. and Daloisio, T. C. (2017). Change the way you change. 5 Roles of Leaders who
accelerate Business Performance. Austin, Texas: Greenleaf Book Press.
- Waghid, Y. (2014). Pedagogy out of bounds: Untamed Variations of Democratic Education.
Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.
Kuzvinetsa Peter Dzvimbo
CEO: The ZIMCHE