ALL state-owned tertiary education institutions in the country are understaffed with the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) and the Harare Institute of Technology (HIT) being the hardest hit, a report by the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education has shown.
The report has been included in the draft Mid-Term Policy Plan (MTP), a successor to Short-Term Emergency Recovery Programme.
UZ had by May this year 385 professional staff members out of 1 171 vacancies –– a 67% vacancy level.
HIT has a 70% vacancy level with only 37 staff members out of a possible 123.
It is only the Zimbabwe Open University which has the lowest vacancy levels at 16% with 191 posts out of 227 filled.
The Midlands State University, Lupane University and Great Zimbabwe University had vacancy levels around 30%.
Great Zimbabwe University is a relative’s small institution with 27 posts which explains why there are low vacancy levels.
Polytechnics have also been affected with a 60,3% vacancy level, as only 1 043 of the 2 630 posts have been taken up.
High vacancy levels at the institutions are a result of brain drain and poor remuneration which has seen college and university staff joining the private sector or leaving the country for greener pastures.
Universities and colleges have partly filled in vacant posts by absorbing recent graduates –– a move some educationists said compromised the country’s quality of education.
There are cases where entire departments have been left without a single lecturer and have to rely on part-time staffers.
Incentives and remunerations for part-time lecturers are very low. Most state universities pay part-time lecturers US$10 an hour.
It has been suggested in the MTP that that the retirement age for lecturers be moved to 70 years from the current 65 years.
Retired lecturers should also be involved on flexi-time basis whenever their services are required.
Staffing crises at state universities and colleges is a reversal of what the country had sought to achieve when it increased the number of institutions in the last 10 years.
Zimbabwe had one university, a single polytechnic and several technical colleges at independence but these were increased after 1990.
The country now has seven state universities, three privately owned, and an open university and has upgraded all technical colleges to polytechnics.