Tinomuda Chakanyuka, Senior Reporter
TERTIARY institutions have been given the green light to recruit students without demanding specific subjects such as Mathematics and English as long as the programmes on offer do not require those subjects.
This comes after the Government in 2016, issued a circular that was addressed to the Higher Education Examination Council (Hexco) directing that students without Mathematics should not be allowed to register for examinations.
This resulted in a number of students failing to write their examinations and tertiary institutions also demanding that prospective and those who were already enrolled to write and pass O-level Mathematics to be enrolled or continue with their studies.
In 2016, thousands of students at polytechnics in the country were left stranded following a Government directive that all students who did not pass Mathematics at Ordinary Level should not proceed to the next level until they produce proof that they have passed the subject.
The directive also jolted tertiary institutions who saw reduced enrolment.
However, soon after the new Government was formed in November last year, the tertiary institutions started making submissions to their parent ministry to review the entry qualifications as enrolment was also going down.
In an interview, Higher and Tertiary Education Minister Professor Amon Murwira said tertiary institutions were free to use their own discretion to enrol without necessarily demanding entry qualifications that are irrelevant to specific courses on offer.
He said, for example, it would not make sense for an institution to have O- Level Mathematics as a requirement for a purely Arts programme.
Prof Murwira, was however, quick to clarify that this would be purely an institution’s prerogative to set entry qualifications without necessarily approaching the ministry.
“It remains the institution’s responsibility to revise entry requirements. As a ministry we leave such decisions to the colleges. Our role is to give direction and not directives on academic matters. We leave academic boards to exercise their independence and rights,” he said.
Prof Murwira added, “I might have been misconstrued when I talked about entry qualifications. I never said scrap Maths. Some tertiary institutions complained that some of the entry requirements were not relevant or matching some of the courses, and enrolment numbers were plummeting. I said if you feel a particular programme like Hotel and Catering or a purely Arts programme does not require Maths, why not revise that.”
Prof Murwira said the country’s policy on higher and tertiary education was of inclusive education and urged tertiary institutions’ recruitment to recognise the diversity in talents and abilities among students.
He said the role of tertiary institutions was to develop a diverse array of professionals who will contribute meaningfully to the development of the country.
“Our policy is a policy of inclusive education, recognising that people have different talents. As a country we should have people of different specialisations. We can’t all be engineers. We need journalists, teachers and a host of other professionals.
“We don’t want to see a student who deserves to be in college roaming the streets, no. Ways should be found to ensure that such a person gets a chance to be in college,” said Prof Murwira.
He said the education sector cannot be uniform and institutions of higher and tertiary learning should exercise academic freedom.
Prof Murwira said his ministry, by allowing tertiary institutions to exercise academic freedom, trusted that the right personnel had been deployed to run the institutions.
“If the institutions had agreed on a general rule among themselves and it’s now resulting in students’ numbers falling, then it’s up to them to look at that rule again. I’ve always said, you are not cattle on a yoke. We deployed you to those institutions trusting that you are capable. We expect these people (principals) to think and advise us.
“We don’t want parrots running our institutions,” he said.
Last month Prof Murwira met academics in Bulawayo where concerns were raised over stringent entry requirements into tertiary institutions, some of which were not relevant to specific programmes, resulting in the number of students falling drastically.