Two new private universities planned for Zimbabwe

South Korea's Africa Future Foundation has announced plans to build a research-based medical university and information technology centre at an estimated cost of US$60 million. The medical school will have a 250-bed teaching hospital Greedysouth has learned .

Pictured above Africa University

According to The new institution will be the first non-church linked private university in Zimbabwe. Construction work is expected to start within five months and a team of Zimbabwean lawyers, doctors and IT experts are currently in South Korea to prepare for the project.

Local Government and Urban Development Minister Ignatius Chombo, a former University of Zimbabwe lecturer who hosted a dinner for visiting South Koreans this month, said: "They have promised to build an ultra-modern university. All things [being] equal, construction should start in February next year."

The visit by the delegation came at a time when South Korea and North Korea appear to be jostling for influence in Zimbabwe.

In May South Korea's Pai Chai University conferred an honorary degree on Morgan Tsvangirai, who is President Robert Mugabe's arch-rival, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change and Prime Minister in Zimbabwe's power-sharing government. It was Tsvangirai's first honorary degree.

During the same month, out of the 32 teams that participated in the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa, North Korea was the only team to agree to have its team camp in Zimbabwe.

But the team pulled out after planned protests triggered by the fact that North Korea trained a local army brigade that killed nearly 20,000 Zimbabweans in the 1980s, as Mugabe crushed dissent in the opposition-supporting province of Matabeleland. The massacres prompted human rights watchdogs to call for Mugabe to be charged with crimes against humanity.

The other new private institution is to be built by a local church, the Zimbabwe Assemblies of God Africa.

It has obtained a provisional certificate of registration to construct a university in Bindura, to be named after its founder and leader Professor Ezekiel Guti. He is a prominent Zimbabwean evangelist who holds several honorary degrees from American Christian institutions.

Before the latest project, the Zimbabwe Ezekiel Guti University, Guti founded seven bible colleges and his church has been opened in 106 nations.

The new church university will have faculties of theology, agriculture, environment and tourism, information and communications technology, and health sciences.

The four other private higher education institutions in Zimbabwe are the Africa, Solusi, Catholic and Women's universities.

Standards at state-run universities have been falling, with some campuses barely operating because of lack of funding brought about by years of political instability and economic crisis.

A number of faculties at the University of Zimbabwe, the country's oldest and largest institution, remain closed because of a shortage of lecturers.

At a graduation ceremony earlier this month, Great Zimbabwe University Vice-chancellor Professor Obert Maravanyika said the institution was operating from the premises of a local polytechnic and a teachers college as the government had failed to provide funding to complete the university's campus.

Still, the government has indefinite plans to construct three new public universities in line with its policy to have at least one university in each of the country's 10 provinces.
Mungwadzi Godwin

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