By John Kachembere
ZIMBABWE’S cash-strapped government has approved a $1 billion grant to a university to be built in honour of President Robert Mugabe, a Cabinet Minister disclosed yesterday.
Jonathan Moyo, the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development, said Cabinet had approved an $800 million grant towards the construction of the Robert Gabriel Mugabe University, which will be owned by the Robert Gabriel Mugabe Foundation, whose founding trustees will be Mugabe and his wife, Grace.
He said a grant of $200 million towards the establishment of the university’s endowment fund for research and innovation had also been approved by Cabinet.
“There can be no better recognition of President Mugabe’s commitment to education and his exemplary leadership,” Moyo told journalists.
Mugabe, 93, who has led the country since 1980 when it attained independence from colonial Britain, is the chancellor of all State universities.
“The Robert Gabriel Mugabe University will be a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) institution designed to facilitate the discovery of scientific, technological and engineering solutions to improve the quality of life of our country and humanity,” he added.
It is not clear how the government, which is struggling to fund social programmes, including health and education, as well as infrastructure development, will fund the project. However, government has created wiggle room for itself despite tight fiscal space, through the issuance of Treasury Bills.
Public universities, which received $221 million in budget allocations this year, are struggling with poor funding despite United Nations emphasis to have 15 percent of the National Budget going towards education.
Official figures show that public higher education systems in the country are historically heavily dependent on the fiscus (80 percent) for their capital and recurrent expenditures.
Economic analysts assert that underfunding from government has resulted in archaic and primordial technological equipment in higher institutions of learning.
With an initial grant of $200 million (2,6 billion rand) towards its endowment fund, the Mugabe university would surpass what top South African institutions such as the University of Pretoria (2,47 billion rand), University of Cape Town (2,37 billion), University of Witwatersrand (1,6 billion rand), University of Stellenbosch (1,48 billion) and Rhodes University (300 000 rand) received in 2010.
Only the University of South Africa), with endowments close to five billion rand tops the proposed Mugabe university in these stakes.