In some cases, the candidates – mostly top government officials, businessmen and security sector personnel – register to study for a degree but never attend lessons or undertake studies. Some of them actually send other people on their behalf to register and complete all the requirements. In this case, outside or inside experts write the assignments, carry out the stipulated research and even write the examinations on behalf of these undeserving beneficiaries.
In other cases, the candidates register for studies but hire those with sufficient knowledge and skills to write their assignments and even the examinations, in collusion with university staff that may include top university management. In the third and perhaps most brazen instance, the individuals just order the universities to prepare certificates and the beneficiaries are first seen on campus when they go to graduate. There is a fourth category – whereby influential individuals are given dubious honorary degrees.
This is happening at a time when educational qualifications are increasingly considered the gateway to professional recognition and relevance. They are also seen as a status symbol in Zimbabwe.
What is clear in all these cases is that the people who are finally awarded the degrees do not deserve the academic recognition that goes with graduation. Worse still, it is both criminal and unethical for the individuals to be awarded degrees in this manner.
This increasing trend has badly dented the reputation of local degrees and thus prejudiced hardworking people who have earned their certificates through diligent study. While Zimbabwean education is still relatively highly esteemed, very soon, it will lose all credibility, merely because of a few lazy people who feel entitled to get the easy way all the time.
We therefore call for a commission of inquiry to investigate exactly how and to whom state universities have been awarding dubious degrees.
While it may sound naïve to make this suggestion because those behind the scam are the ones in charge, we still feel there is a way out. Parliament can be the first port of call, with legislators lobbying for it. Civil society and opposition political parties can also lobby government, international education bodies and law enforcement agents to recognise the need for the commission of inquiry.Post published in: Editor: Wilf Mbanga