From varsity to the streets: Cry the Zimbabwean graduate

Source: From varsity to the streets: Cry the Zimbabwean graduate – NewsDay Zimbabwe June 21, 2016

REVELATIONS from a recent survey that more than 2 000 university graduates in Harare and Bulawayo, the country’s two major cities, have turned to street vending for survival, are a damning indictment on the government’s failure to soundly manage the economy and to give its citizens a civilised way of making a living. This is so, given that the foremost highlight of the last election was the gargantuan pledge of creating two million jobs for the masses by the governing party. Nonetheless, the country is clearly in recession with no end in sight to the economic woes.


A survey released by the Vendors’ Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (Viset) conducted between February and April this year indicates that at least 2 187 graduates in the country’s two largest cities have turned to vending for survival. This is not to mention the thousands in smaller cities, where some are known to be illegal gold panners. The report further showed that 381 graduate of the 2 187 graduates vendors hold postgraduate qualifications. This denotes that a whopping 75% of the country’s graduates have never known what it means to be employed. What has ironically continued on an unparalleled scale is the opening of many institutions of higher learning. The number of universities in the country continues to swell. The University of Zimbabwe has embarked on a double intake and this literally translates to an addition to the thousands of graduates selling bottled water in the streets. The country’s unemployment rate is reported to be somewhere in the region of 85% to 90%, yet the country has committed to churning out more graduates. Does the government pause to think where these people are heading? Education was never meant to be an end in itself; education should be a means to an end. Can we honestly continue to be a skills training ground for other nations? What use is an education if it can’t make one survive. Why should Zimbabwe, an independent nation be hooked on the exportation of labour?

Statistics on both output and input are far from encouraging; capacity utilisation crashed down from 57,3% in 2011 to the current 43,3% and this fundamentally explains the widespread company closures and massive job carnage. There is also a substantial collapse in output seen through the de-industrialisation, which the economy has faced for long. It is reported that over 100 000 jobs have been lost since 2013 and 60% of companies operating in 2010 have since shut down. In the wake of an economy grinding towards a halt, Zimbabwe has continued producing thousands of graduates each year.

It’s quite sad that there is simply nothing on the ground to hint, let alone suggest that even a thousand jobs can be created in this sterile economy. With a moribund industry, characterised by retrenchments and downsizing, the picture can only look grim for the energetic graduates, who have to endure holding a paper qualification with no meaning. It is tragic to have chemical engineers, sociologists, teachers, nurses and many other professionals standing behind vegetable stalls. The available statistics on the unemployment rate, company closures, and capacity utilisation points to a country in dire straits. There simply is no correlation; the number of graduates from the University of Zimbabwe alone, versus the unemployment rate, spells doom. Where do 10 000 graduates go when less than 800 000 adults are in employment and companies cannot absorb anymore? It’s a catastrophic waste of critical human resources.

It is also apparent that the national leadership itself doesn’t seem to have a clue out of this economic quagmire. Theoretically, there is a lot said, in fact, tonnes of economic revival theories, but in essence the economy is grinding to a halt.

There has to be a corresponding availability of jobs to allow for the absorption of these graduates under normal circumstances, otherwise the entire ideal of education loses meaning. Every graduate ought to be proud working towards the realisation of the betterment and goals of their own nation. That a whole country with numerous troubles of its own makes a decision to “export” its own labour is to admit failure. Higher and Tertiary Education deputy minister Godfrey Gandawa in June 2015 noted that the ministry had signed agreements with a number of countries for exportation of labour. In my view, this highlights an admission of failure. Labour exportation resulting from an exchange in skills is different from labour exportation resulting from a malfunctioning economy.

The government is understood to be drawing a database of unemployed graduates dating back to 1980 so as to send them to countries in the region.

Surely, the current state of things is far from normal. The government, which could have shouldered this burden by employing graduates, is currently feeling the heat, as it chokes under the weight of a wage bill of close to 600 000 workers. It’s indeed a sad tale: From university to the streets. Verily, where to Zimbabwean graduates?

Learnmore Zuze writes in his own capacity. E-mail:


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    TJINGABABILI 6 years ago