Training of University Deans set to transform the student experience of learners in Zimbabwe and Africa
7 December 2022
Africa University is spearheading the training of Deans who head student affairs divisions of institutions of higher learning in Zimbabwe with the aim of developing student relations practitioners who will be well equipped to serve learners throughout the duration of their studies in university. In attendance were student affairs Deans from Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT), Harare Institute of Technology (HIT), Manicaland University of Applied Sciences (MSUAS) and Africa University(AU).
Funded by the United States Embassy in Harare, the programme also aims to create a platform for the sharing of experiences and best practices across universities to better reshape and inform perceptions, attitudes and approaches to student affairs and relations in Zimbabwean universities.
“The COVID- 19 Pandemic made us realize that the conventional means of offering student support services was not working. The student today lives in cyberspace with their challenges and tribulations all the more difficult to identify and resolve. That is why this training is so important, it will allow our Deans of Students to reach our constituency where they are and bridge that gap.”
This was said by Africa University Research Officer and coordinator of the workshop Mr. George Miti, who further opined that the landscape of student affairs administration needs realignment, positioning students at the center to better serve them and ensure their success in higher education.
The transition from high school to university can be a challenging time for most students who grapple with the concept of adulthood, independence and successfully navigating campus life. Further complicating this transition is a path riddled with pressures from peers, academic rigors and socio- economic stress.
Dean of Students for HIT Mrs. Mudavanhu said that COVID- 19 removed from many students avenues through which they could seek counselling and assistance with depression. This unfortunately led to an increase in suicide cases among learners during this period.
“Our students deal with a number of issues from isolation, to internal battles of reconciling African culture with the modern world driven by social media and most especially, low- self-esteem that leaves them vulnerable to peer pressure and depression. What we aspire to do and encourage others as student affairs practitioners to realize is that we have a role to play in developing a whole student who is capable of holding their own in the world long after graduation. Sound of spirt, mind and body.”
Africa University makes deliberate efforts to build young adults who are not only academically gifted, but who also possess the soft interpersonal skills necessary to thrive in diverse cultural and social settings. The institutions’ student body that is intentionally Pan- African, allows room for exploration, self- discovery and pushes students to go beyond their comfort zones in an enabling environment. Allowing room for such personal development, the institution places emphasis and focus on holistic approaches meant to empower and emancipate. This is a culture that Africa University is sharing and teaching through platforms such as these.
Dean Senyerai of CUT looks to the future of student affairs administration in Zimbabwe and Africa at large and went on to say,
“Eventually, we intend to come up with a practitioners association to enhance skills of administrators in the field and to most importantly, create a space where we do not exist in isolation but collaborate with partner universities in Zimbabwe, Africa and abroad to benchmark our standards and services to global standards”.