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COVID-19 AFFECTS THE FUTURE OF TERTIARY STUDENTS

By Mufaro Mafumhe

The Covid-19 enforced lockdown has not only hit most sectors of the economy hard, but has also impacted hard on work-related learning for tertiary students.

Students interviewed and yet to secure places for attachment said they were worried about their future, as internship is an integral part of their learning process.

“Covid-19 spells doom for us because of companies’ closure, and universities are silent on the issue even though they are aware of the obtaining situation,” said Kudzanai Gerald, a student at one of the universities.

Most universities give a six to eight months period to complete work-related learning, and for students yet to secure attachment places, this spells doom.

Failure to go on attachment might force some of the students to defer their studies.

Allison Muzongonda a student at Chinhoyi University of Technology said: “Covid-19 first affected students who are a stream ahead of us with most of them being told to stop reporting for duty until the 2020 lockdown was over.

“Due to that their attachment period has lapsed into ours, thus creating undue pressure on current attachment students to secure internship in a shrinking market,” he said.

Audrey Mushava a student at Midlands State University (MSU) said: “Since most organizations are not taking attaches at the moment, the fear of not securing attachment in the short space of time provided by the university is now a cause for concern.

“It would be of much help if the university were to extend the deadline for our attachment period since we are in lockdown.”

Similar sentiments were echoed by Tendai Kusena, a student at MSU.

“Since most media houses have downsized staff and even on the number of attaches they can engage, it will be hard to get a placement. My worry is I might fail to finish my studies at the time I was supposed to finish due to this, which is not of my making.”

Harare Institute of Technology SRC president Leeroy Barnete proposed that tertiary institutions could actually come to the help of its students.

“In order to help all those who are on the verge of deferment, institutions must employ their own students in house.

“For example, students who do Information Systems can be engaged at their institutions, working in computer laboratories fixing day-to-day errands,” Barnete said.

“Institutions must also engage with various organisations in time such that when students are due to go for attachment, everything is in place. It ideally should be the institution that allocates students to different organisations.”

However, some students have been known to turn down internship places which do not offer a retainer or an allowance.

“There is this mistaken belief that a student will be on employment during intership, which is not the case,” said one publisher who asked not to be named.

“Internship is meant to expose the student to the working environment as opposed to the theories they learn in school. But of course our economy being what it is, one cannot begrudge those students who put money ahead of training. Ndonyika yacho I guess.”

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