75 years  

Department for International and Comparative Education 1985-1995

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Professor Charles Nherera : student 1991 - 1994

Charles recalls the support of various members of staff for his PhD and how this has helped his work since leaving the Institute:

"I started my PhD studies under a Commonwealth Scholarship, at the Institute of Education, University of London in October 1991 and completed in September 1994. Originally, I had worked under the Supervision of Dr Trevor Coombe before he left for South Africa. Professor Angela Little then became my main Supervisor and Professor Michael Young was the Co-supervisor. I enjoyed working with all of them and I really appreciate their thoroughness and the interest they showed in my work. My Thesis was entitled "Vocationalisation of Secondary Education in Zimbabwe: a theoretical and empirical investigation".

I returned to Zimbabwe soon after completing my PhD studies in 1994. I was extremely relieved that I had gone through the programme successfully within three years and was keen 'to go back to normal'. Having been away from my home country for three years, I was anxious to go back to Zimbabwe with my family and get settled.

I got back to my job as a lecturer in the Department of Technical Education at the University of Zimbabwe. My wife Karin managed to return to the school where she taught before she resigned to join me when I came to the Institute for my studies. Our children, Emma and Grant joined a private primary school in Harare and were soon making new friends. Having been away for three years, it took us almost a year to settle down and re-establish our home life.

Initially, going back to work in my old job felt almost like an anti-climax after the hectic previous three years as a PhD student. The only change I could feel immediately was the new title. Everybody at the university was now calling me "Doctor". Although it sounded strange at first, I was soon used to it and actually expected it. Then there was the question of whether I was now any different as a lecturer than I was before acquiring the new qualification. It did not take long before I started being assigned new responsibilities, within the Department, the Faculty and beyond.

Within my first few months of resuming duty, I was appointed as Co-ordinator for Technical Graphics and Design as well as Curriculum Issues in the Department of Technical Education. Many other responsibilities were soon to follow. My first major challenge was when I was elected as the Faculty of Education Representative on the University of Zimbabwe Research Board. My task was to present and defend research proposals of academic staff at the Research Board which allocates funding for the whole University. I represented over ninety academic staff from nine departments in the Faculty for two consecutive years until I stepped down to become the Faculty of Education Representative on the University Senate. I was also appointed as the Faculty Co-ordinator of Linkage Programmes with international institutions and Faculty Representative on the University Computer Committee that is responsible for the development of Information Technology throughout the institution.

In 1997, I was appointed as the Director of the Human Resources Research Centre and Editor-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Journal of Educational Research. During the same year, I was also appointed to sit on the National Steering Committee of the Better Schools Programme, charged with the improvement of quality in the education system throughout the country. I have also been an External Examiner and an Advisory Board Council member for one of our leading technical colleges. I also served on the National Manpower Advisory Council as a representative of the state universities in Zimbabwe. In March 1999, I was appointed as the Chairman of the National Y2K Task Force that was set up to avert the Millennium Bug and ensure Zimbabwe's smooth roll-over into the year 2000. From 2002 to 2003, I was the Chairman (effectively Acting Mayor) of a Commission that ran the Municipality of Kariba, one of the country's major tourist resort towns.

I am the Vice Chancellor of a new university that I was assigned to establish at an existing technical teachers college in 1999. This university known as the Chinhoyi University of Technology is now established through an Act of Parliament and already has an enrolment of approximately 1500 students pursuing both diploma and degree programmes. It offers technological and commercial programmes, with emphasis on entrepreneurship throughout. I have attended courses in the "Management of Higher Education Institutions" specially run for Vice Chancellors, Presidents and Executive Directors" by UNESCO (IIEP) as well as Association of Commonwealth Universities in both the United Kingdom and Israel. I just been promoted to Associate Professor and am already enjoying the new title "Professor Nherera" which I believe comes with new challenges too.

I have supervised research students at both MPhil and PhD levels and have continued with my research work in education and related areas. I have carried out research work for the Ministry of Education Sport and Culture, the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, the UNDP, Unicef, Unesco, the Netherlands Embassy, and the Japanese International Co-operation Association as a consultant. I am currently working on a DFID-sponsored collaborative research project on "Globalisation, Qualifications and Livelihoods of Youths" together with Professor Angela Little of the Institute of Education (University of London) and Professor Siri Hertige of the Colombo University in Sri Lanka (link). I have presented papers and served as a resource person at numerous international conferences and workshops in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark, France, Germany and Italy. During the first quarter of 2003 I was one of the 15 specialists invited by the World Bank and ILO to Turin in Italy for "Consultations on Vocational Skills Development in Sub-Saharan Africa".

Outside the academic life, I am the current Chairman of a Board of Directors of the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO) with a fleet capacity of over one thousand buses. I am also a member of the National Economic Consultative Council in which I serve on the Human Resources Development Committee.

From my personal experience therefore, there is definitely life after PhD. Hard work does not stop when you finish your PhD, but probably even starts there. I would like to conclude by congratulating the Department of Education and International Development (EID) on its 75th Anniversary and Reunion. Although I was unable to attend the occasion due to other commitments, I was with you all in spirit. In my language (Shona) I say to Professor Angela Little and all staff, "makorokoto" (congratulations). Your Department has distinguished itself by creating distinguished people through the relevant and excellent programmes that you continue to offer."

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Compiled and edited by Clare Bentall and Angela Little. First issued Spring 2005.