Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
GOVERNMENT is scaling up construction works at the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) through expanding the innovation hub and building an industrial park at the institution.
In the 2022 national budget, Treasury allocated $1 billion towards construction works at Nust.
Work is underway to complete the Students Services Centre and the university’s library.
Nust is mandated to produce graduates biased towards science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), but due in part to lack of proper infrastructure, the institution has been enrolling more commercial-oriented students, betraying its core mandate.
Construction work at Nust had been stagnant for almost 18 years with hanging cranes and incomplete buildings being synonymous with the university.
Nust is supposed to have 27 buildings but only seven have been completed and some buildings are now dilapidated. However, just like other projects in Matabeleland region that have been neglected for years, the Second Republic has committed resources towards completing them.
Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Amon Murwira told Chronicle that the lack of progress in the construction of Nust infrastructure has been a pain for Government.
He said the narrative is expected to change as two additional structures will be constructed starting this year.
“With Nust at this moment we have been very busy trying to resuscitate the programmes of construction. It has been a pain on our side in making sure that these projects start to take off. But I’m happy to say the Students Services Centre is now on its way up. Also, we have the prototyping industrial machines that we have put at Nust and they have been installed at the Works Department,” he said.
“I believe we will be able to build the Industrial Park at Nust on the Gwanda Road side of the institution, we would be able to do it this year. I have received diagrams of the new industrial shells and also of the expanded innovation hub. So, what I’m telling you is that we are busy with a lot of things.”
The minister said Nust is expected to expand the innovation hub which houses some of its flagship projects including the Applied Genetic Testing Centre (AGTC) which conducts DNA profiling.
Prof Murwira said the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund (Zimdef) has come handy in financing the construction of innovation hubs and industrial parks at universities as well implementation of projects at the universities.
“What we are doing, all these innovation hubs that we are talking about, all these industrial parks that we are talking about, all these agro-innovations that we are talking about in terms of acquisition of biological resources that include cattle, goats and so forth in our universities so that they start to produce is being done by Zimdef,” he said.
“Education 5.0 can only work when we have good programmes that lead to the production of goods and services. Good staff that match the programmes, good infrastructure digital and physical, good laws that support the innovation and good financial infrastructure. So Zimdef, falls within the good financial infrastructure to make sure that Education 5.0 happens. It is financing of the projects that you see because we believe there is a greater good in these things.”
He said Government was aware that Zimdef was disbursing little allowances to students on attachment as most of the funds are being channelled towards capacitating institutions of higher learning.
Prof Murwira said the higher and tertiary education ministry has moved beyond conceptualisation of innovation projects to actually producing models that can be transformed into tangible products.
“We are now in the innovation hubs producing prototypes, after producing prototypes, we want to make them to be part of the production line. We are on the move, there is a lot of work to be done, there is still a lot of confidence that we have to develop but I’m happy that we are on the move,” said Prof Murwira.
He said universities have managed to navigate the challenges that were brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Prof Murwira said the adoption of blended learning has been highly successful as all the country’s universities have managed to complete degree courses resulting in students graduating in all their studies. — @nqotshili