Innocent Ruwende, Harare Bureau
President Mugabe yesterday conferred degrees on 1 965 graduates, including legendary swimmer Kirsty Coventry, at the 16th Bindura University of Science Education (BUSE) graduation ceremony.
The graduates successfully completed degrees in education, disaster management, conservation biology, development studies, natural resources management and environmental sustainability, computer science, nursing, sports administration, applied mathematics, among other disciplines.
Coventry, who was conferred with an honorary doctorate in Sports Science, was represented by her mother, Lyn Coventry, as she is out of the country on International Olympic Committee business.
Speaking at the graduation ceremony, BUSE vice chancellor Professor Eddie Mwenje said Coventry, who has won seven of Zimbabwe’s eight Olympic gold medals, is the most decorated African Olympic athlete.
President Mugabe once rewarded Coventry with $100 000 for her achievements and also gave her a lifetime diplomatic passport.
Prof Mwenje said the 2016/2017 academic year had shattered records of all previous academic calendars.
“Your Excellency and Chancellor, your institution has grown in stature, visibility, and reputation in the delivery of its mandate,” he said. “There has been an increase in Doctoral or PhD holders from our members of staff, whose number has grown from three a few years ago to 72 today, with an additional 50 members at advanced stages of their doctoral studies.
“New programmes have been introduced, especially postgraduate programmes in the sciences that are relevant to the national thrust on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), including the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio Economic Transformation (Zim-Asset).”
Prof Mwenje said the programmes included master’s degrees in Food Security and Sustainable Development; in Microbiology and Plant Pathology; and Physical Chemistry.
The university, he said, bought state-of-the-art equipment for the first school of Optometry in the country.
“We are releasing at this 16th graduation ceremony 1 965 graduates,” said Prof Mwenje. “In addition to the School of Optometry, which will start in February 2018, the University is introducing new degree programmes that include a Bachelor of Science degree programme in Agricultural Engineering, Bachelor of Science degree programme in Electronic Engineering, Bachelor of Science degree programme in Biotechnology as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in Programme Audiology.”
Prof Mwenje said the programmes were important in producing the critical human capital to stimulate industrialisation and modernisation of the country.
BUSE, he said, was working to have faculties of engineering and medicine by August next year.
“Your Excellency and Chancellor, we again call upon Government as it has done in the past to support these initiatives, especially by lifting the freeze on recruitment of qualified staff for these disciplines, as they have tremendous positive impact on the development of the country and its universal competitiveness,” he said.
Prof Mwenje said it was gratifying to observe that 60 percent of the students who received prizes were holders of the STEM scholarships supported under Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund (Zimdef).
BUSE, in collaboration with Higher Life Foundation, launched an in-service teacher digital skills development programme aimed at capacitating both primary and secondary school teachers with practical ICT skills.
“To date, the project, which started in February 2017, has surpassed its target of training 10 000 teachers by February 2018,” said Prof Mwenje. “We have now trained 10 800. The university produced the largest number of science teachers at a graduation ceremony in Zimbabwe, ushering 779.
“This includes master’s degree recipients in mathematics, among other master’s programmes. Today, I can boldly assert that we are the university producing the highest number of science education graduates per year.”
Higher and Tertiary Education Minister Prof Jonathan Moyo and his deputy Dr Godfrey Gandawa attended the graduation, together with Mashonaland Central leadership.