The government of Zimbabwe has announced plans to build a $1 billion university in the name of President Robert Mugabe.
Tertiary Education Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo told journalists Tuesday that the proposed Robert Gabriel Mugabe University will honor President Mugabe’s indelible mark in the development of the country’s education system.
The state-owned Herald newspaper reports that the university will be situated in Mazowe District, 36 km west of the capital, Harare.
Moyo said the university will produce graduates who will specialize in a wide range of scientific and technological endeavors to help reach Zimbabwe’s vision of industrialization and modernization.
He added that at an estimated cost of $1 billion — $800 million for the construction and another $200 million for an endowment fund — the university project will not come cheap.
The announcement comes at a time when the nation is near bankrupt and still reeling from the effects of a recent drought that left more than 4 million people in need of food aid.
The minister left out the important details about how the authorities planned to finance the project.
An Embattled Economy
Over the last decade, the Zimbabwean economy has struggled with runaway inflation, pervasive public sector corruption, and a shortage of foreign currency that has been exacerbated by a barrage of economic sanctions imposed on Mugabe’s government by Western countries.
Mugabe, now 93, oversaw the collapse of what was once a thriving economy and a major food producer in southern Africa when he controversially chased out White land owners and invoked a mountain of sanctions from Western nations, ultimately heralding one of the worst cases of hyperinflation the world has ever seen.
The economy has halved in size since 2000 and the country’s public wage bill reportedly uses up 91 percent of all total revenue.
Mugabe, a trained educationist with at least seven different degrees, however, has a reputation for prioritizing education. The country reportedly has one of the highest adult literacy rates in Africa, with an estimated 90 percent of the population being able to read and write.
Nevertheless, the proposed Mugabe University project, which is being promoted by his wife First Lady Grace Mugabe and members of his kitchen cabinet, has been rightly dismissed by many within the country as another attempt to stroke Mugabe’s ego.
Zimbabwe currently has 20 universities — seven of them are privately owned while the rest belong to the state. And the opposition say the money for a new university would be better spent upgrading facilities at the existing universities, where students complain of poor learning conditions and a lack of accommodations.