THE decline in standards at the once prestigious University of Zimbabwe shows no signs of abating despite an initiative launched in April last year by former deputy prime minister Arthur Mutambara to raise funds to revive the struggling institution.
Mutambara even hosted a dinner in April which was graced by former South African president Thabo Mbeki, various government officials and luminaries who are former students at the institution where financial pledges were made.
The UZ required US$80m to fund various projects to revive the ailing institution, but Mutambara’s committee aimed to raise US$20m.
He also cobbled together a committee of trustees to lead the fundraising effort including some of the UZ’s most notable alumni comprising former finance minister Tendai Biti, Africa Sun chief executive officer Shingi Mutasa, TN CEO Tawanda Nyambirai, Cyril Ruwende (Diaspora USA), Professor Rueben Simoyi (Diaspora USA), Alex Magaisa and Brian Kagoro (Diaspora South Africa).
However, a visit to the institution by the Zimbabwe Independent this week revealed signs of increasing infrastructural decay and poor living conditions for students accommodated there. The dilapidated 56-year-old infrastructure continues to crumble with students at the higher education institution facing worsening water woes.
The halls of residence are an eyesore and the once green lawns on the university grounds have given way to a desert-like barrenness resembling over-grazed communal pastures as the serious water crisis persists.
There is a now-familiar sight of queues as students patiently wait to get water from the few boreholes dotted around the halls of residence.
“Remember to fetch water for flushing toilets. Let us all co-operate, thank you,” reads a notice posted on the doors of New Complex One, one of the halls of residence which has three floors.
The implication is that a student living on the third floor and using ablution facilities on that floor has to undertake the arduous task of ascending floors with a bucket of water.
Despite promises by property tycoon Phillip Chiyangwa for a bigger building, students and other worshippers still have to take turns to cram into the university chapel which has become hopelessly inadequate to accommodate the ever-increasing population of inter-denominational worshippers at the institution.
Chiyangwa pledged US$1,6 million at the April fundraising, saying the money would be used for the construction of a chapel, which was one of the capital projects identified for funding by the university authorities.
“There is currently no church at the UZ. Where there is no God, there is a problem,” Chiyangwa said at the time, adding “I made the commitment because I have got the money. God gives me favours every day.”
Chiyangwa and other members of the UZ alumni could not be reached for comment as their mobile phones were not available at the time of going to print.
Using boarding school-type measures, university authorities appear to have finally succeeded in sucking the life out of the once-vibrant student body which produced firebrands like Mutambara, Biti, the late Learnmore Jongwe, Job Sikhala, Qhubani Moyo, Gorden Moyo and Takura Zhangazha who honed their political skills at the institution in clashes with government over students’ welfare and issues of national importance.
Among these measures is the requirement that they wear their student identification cards around their necks so that their names are prominently displayed for all to see.
In addition, there are restrictions on males visiting their female counterparts. They are not allowed into each other’s rooms with the hostel foyer being the furthest one can go when visiting.