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Mechanism for working with Africa using Zimbabwean higher education as an example

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In early April, a representative delegation from St. Petersburg Mining University paid a working visit to the Republic of Zimbabwe. Forpost has already written about the part of the trip that was devoted to familiarizing with the mining industry of this southern African country. Today - a detailed story about its higher education system.

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The first university visited by Russians was the University of Zimbabwe, located in the capital Harare. Over 18,000 students study here at 11 faculties. Construction, geotechnical and geological engineering, geodesy, mining, metallurgical engineering, mineral processing technologies are taught. Tuition: $150-250 per semester.

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Next is Midlans State University, which is located in the province of the same name. 28,000 students in 10 faculties. Areas of training: electrical and electronics engineering; fuel energy; mechanical engineering; metallurgy; materials science; applied geology; geophysical exploration; mining. It is more expensive - up to 1000 dollars for six months. Grants from the state are provided only in exceptional cases.

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Chinhoyi University of Technology. 12,000 students study industrial engineering, mechatronics, fuel and energy engineering, and information engineering. They pay between $400 and $700 per semester.

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The Bologna system is everywhere. Bachelor's and Master's degree programs are 4 or 5 years and 2 years respectively. Entry requires passing unified "A" level examinations in mathematics, physics and one other subject of choice depending on the field of study: chemistry, biology or geography

Zimbabwe is implementing a strategy to create a "prosperous, upper-middle-income society by 2030". One of the directions is the "Education 5.0" program. Its key messages are: teaching and learning, research; service to society, innovation, industrialization. National industry needs national personnel. This corresponds with a parallel bid to change the "concession laws". The essence of the idea is to replace the foreign companies now operating in the country's mining sector and sending the lion's share of profits abroad with "pro-state" ones.

The problems at all universities are similar. At the University of Zimbabwe - with an official enrollment of 17718 students, there are only 345 faculty members, and only 140 of them have advanced degrees. There is no tradition of old scientific schools in mining sciences. In addition, there is obvious poverty - at Midlands University, educators shared in a personal conversation that their salaries are "only enough for food and basic necessities."

"It is obvious that there is no continuity of generations of scientific and pedagogical personnel in the higher education institutions of the Republic, the majority of teachers are young people, and there is simply no one to pass on their experience, knowledge and qualifications to them. This is probably why the Mining University delegation obtained a lot of offers to teach a number of technical disciplines in Zimbabwe," said Grigory Karpov, Associate Professor of the Department of Mineral Deposit Development.

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The laboratory complex and facilities at Chinhoyi University of Technology and Midlands University meet the requirements of their curricula, but are not yet up to the level of a serious higher education institution engaged in training specialists for the most important sector of the country's economy. In addition, there is another problem - the inability to use even the available instruments, and a lack of competence in field research.

"It was a big surprise to me that respected colleagues from universities in Zimbabwe, while preparing proposals for interaction with Mining University, asked us to teach them how to conduct correct geological sampling. Although, for example, this is not a revelation for our senior students, they are engaged in sampling as part of their industrial practices," said Irina Talovina, Head of the Department of Historical and Dynamic Geology.

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In Zimbabwe, as in the rest of Africa, the idea of studying abroad is extremely popular. But once abroad, young people often do not return home. This is especially true for those young men and women who go to countries in Europe and the United States, where programs to "weed out" talent from developing countries are clearly in place.

In addition, the European Commission has recently adopted the so-called "European Diploma Program", which was directly related to the attempt to correct the shortcomings of the Bologna process. Obviously, this decision was provoked not only by the widespread decline in the quality of technical education, but also by the start of a pilot project in Russia to improve the system of higher education. Some postulates of the innovations proposed by the European Commission almost mirror the model implemented today at Mining University, which has already modernized its curricula in accordance with the current state objectives. This includes closer integration with employers, obtaining additional competencies, and the principle of transversal education.

But the EC program will work only for "its" educational institutions. No African university will be included in the program. The way out is obvious - integration with Russia. And this vector is obvious. Suffice it to say that the President of Zimbabwe Emmerson Mnangagwa, a year after his election, renamed one of the central streets where our embassy stands into Leonid Brezhnev Avenue.

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Throughout the trip, local students and teachers told the guests about the successful careers of their friends and acquaintances who had studied in Russia. As it turned out, word of mouth works no worse in Africa than it does in Russia.

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Antonio Luter Lopez, Senior Technical Project Manager at Sonangol Gas and Renewable Energies (Angola):

"Right after graduating from Mining in St. Petersburg, I obtained an invitation to Sonangol. It is a state organization, a monopolist that controls oil production in the country. I have dreamed of becoming a mining engineer since childhood. This specialty guarantees a serious career and high income".

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Eric Koboyankwe, a specialist at Remote Drilling Services:

"Everyone in Botswana knows that the only country that surpasses us in diamond mining is Russia. It ranks first in the world in terms of the number of stones mined. Even 10 years ago, information about Russian education was very scarce, but today its level does not raise any questions. It is considered to be comparable to American education, and in some specialties, primarily engineering, it is even higher. When I read that Mining University in St. Petersburg is among the ten strongest mining universities in the world, the choice became obvious".

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Juste Otakana, Head of Geological Services at Sapro Mayoko Iron Ore (Congo):

"I work for the Congolese company Sapro Mayoko Iron Ore. As a leading engineer. If a mining engineer studied in Russia, in St. Petersburg, where students study in modern laboratories and have access to a limitless amount of scientific literature on mining, then as a young professional he is far superior to his competitors. He is in hot demand. And if earlier geologists were mostly foreigners - Australians, Indians, Chinese, Frenchmen, Englishmen - today there are more and more local specialists".

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Clement Sitali Nava, Engineer in the Short Term Mining Planning Unit (Zambia):

"Mining accounts for over 70% of Zambia's foreign exchange earnings. I have now been working for Barrick Gold Corp, a subsidiary of Canada's Barrick Gold Corp for 6 years at the Lumwana mine. I can say that I received an excellent education, which has never let me down. The university gives not just some indirect ideas about the profession, but specific knowledge and skills necessary for working in the market. Industrial practices organized by the university became very useful. As part of one of them, I found myself at Konkola Copper Mines Plc, and worked at the same Nchanga underground mine near where I lived in my childhood.

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Today there are 1,300 students from the Republic of Zimbabwe in the Russian Federation, with 224 within the quota of the Government of the Russian Federation. For the 2023/24 academic year, 125 quotas have been allocated to Zimbabwean citizens, which is 45 places more than a year earlier. The level of demand for such specialists is maximum.

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At the meeting with the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technical Development, Mr. Amon Murwira, the issues of interest to the host country were discussed in detail. First of all, it is the "Pilot Project for Modernization of Higher Engineering Education" initiated by Vladimir Putin. Zimbabweans have already heard about it, and after each presentation at universities, outlined the high-profile points:

"We are doing the same thing. And we have modernization and technological sovereignty of the country at the top of our agenda. We're increasing the length of undergraduate education. And within the framework of the new program "Training 5.0" we have industrial practice now up to eight months. And we have started to introduce the institute of mentoring.

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"It was surprising for us that the presentation of our Pilot Project caused such a bright and positive reaction," said Marat Rudakov, Director of the Institute of Targeted Educational Programs. - A common "pain point" is the insufficient level of training of bachelors, who after graduation from universities find themselves practically unprepared for real production activities. Here, obviously, we are going in the same direction - in Mining University, within the framework of a pilot project, the duration of practical training is drastically increased, and in Zimbabwean universities, bachelor's degree students devote the third year of their studies out of four or five to industrial internships at enterprises in their field of training. Speaking about the reproduction of scientific and pedagogical personnel, it is absolutely necessary to introduce a system of leading scientists, a kind of "patriarchs" in their scientific direction, who are able to pass on to young graduate students the methodology and spirit of scientific research. Also, our colleagues from Zimbabwe agreed with the need to improve the pedagogical competencies of young teachers within the framework of postgraduate programs".

The parties selected Midlands State University, which has similar educational programs in earth sciences, mining, metallurgy, mechanical engineering, and energy, as the site for the joint pilot project.

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