BRUISED but determined to cling to power, the Zanu PF regime led by President Robert Mugabe, whose interest seems to be safeguarding his family interests by manoeuvring his wife in the succession race, pulled a shocker last week by enabling the First Lady to secure a PhD from the University of Zimbabwe.
Candid Comment with Godwell Gwavava
Grace was among the 3 274 graduands capped by Mugabe, Chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe (UZ), with a PhD degree in the Faculty of Social Studies.
She was capped along with Vice-President Joice Mujuru, who also graduated with a PhD under the Faculty of Commerce. Primary and Secondary Education minister Lazarus Dokora also got a PhD, while a number of politicians were capped.
However, for now most people’s concern is Grace because of her position in politics and society. Interest in her affairs has been heightened by her recent plunge into active Zanu PF politics.
Getting a PhD varies according to country and institution. Depending on the specific field of study, completion of a PhD programme can take three to six years.
Grace, who on the face of it is now more educated than Mugabe, must be extraordinarily intelligent to have got it in far less than three years as it appears.
While details of how she got the PhD are still sketchy, what is clear though is that her degree seems to be more of a product of patronage than academic excellence. But it’s more about UZ than Grace.
Queries that quickly come to mind include whether, in the first place, she met requirements to study for it at UZ? While universities admit PhD applicants on a case-by-case basis and requirements vary, usually the prospective student must have completed an undergraduate honours degree with quality grades or a master’s degree.
Typically one should have shown evidence of previous academic excellence and future potential.
So in Grace’s case, what was the basis of her admission? When did she register? How long did she take to finish her PhD? Who was her supervisor?
Before whom did she defend her thesis? Did she ever write or publish anything in academic journals for peer review? Can she now stand up and honestly call herself a scholar?
Mugabe, being a holder of several degrees, should be aware that academic accomplishment and integrity are earned, not acquired through patronage and influence.
Mugabe studied for his degrees and should know this, although it would be interesting to know, as a matter of fact, how many did he actually study for, when and with which universities.
While Grace deserves the benefit of the doubt, lack of information and transparency about her PhD put her and UZ under scrutiny.
The trouble with Grace’s PhD is not only the degree itself. It’s the impact and implications of that on the UZ, its academia, alumni and the education system.
While some people study properly for their qualifications, it seems others might be getting degrees through the backdoor, manipulating, abusing and degrading the UZ and the education system. If that’s what UZ leaders and Grace did, then they must be investigated for academic fraud.'