Tuesday, 16 March 2021

NO ATTACHMENTS FOR UNI STUDENTS AS COVID-19 BITES

A NUMBER of students at institutions of higher learning are likely to repeat industrial attachment after failing to secure internship as companies scaled down appointments due to Covid-19.

On the onset of the national lockdown in March last year, most companies cut down on staff working from the office and stopped taking interns.

Industrial attachment is mandatory for most courses as it affords students a chance to acquire practical knowledge and have a feel of an actual working environment.

It has a high weighting of up to 40 percent in some humanities courses and has a huge bearing on the final degree class a student can obtain. Internship may range from 3 months to one year.

Students from various universities in the country have raised fears that they may have to repeat the attachment year and pay the new fees that Government has approved.

University authorities have said those who failed to get attachment will have to defer and redo it in other semesters.

They argued that attachment was so important that if student was allowed to pass without it the graduate would be half baked and ruin the reputation of the university.

Miss Nina Wanja, a Media and Cultural Studies student at Great Zimbabwe University, said she has applied to media houses countrywide and has been told they do not take attachees due to the pandemic which has forced corporates to lay off some employees to decongest workstations and contain expenditure.

“I applied to so many media houses. most companies have been singing the same hymn that at the moment they are not taking any interns because the ones who are supposed to have finished their attachment are still on hold because of Covid. It’s really worrisome because our attachment should have started in October last year and is ending in September this year.” 

“I’m now scared because I have already overlapped the required time. I might be forced to defer yet I’m just a victim of circumstances,” said Miss Wanja. 

Miss Melinda Ncube, a Journalism and Media Studies student at the National University of Science and Technology (Nust), said she had wished to specialise in Public Relations but with the circumstances, she is ready to accept anything in line with her degree programme. 

“For my programme one can either venture into public relations, news writing or broadcasting. It was my wish to specialise in public relations but with companies constantly declining my applications due to the lack of space, I am ready to accept anything. It’s no longer a matter of passion, choices or where one’s strengths lie, it is now a matter of any gun can shoot, said Miss Ncube. 

Mr Gerald Moyo, a Library and Information Science student at the National University of Science and Technology, said he started searching for an attachment place last year in September but up to date he has not had any luck. 

“I started searching for attachment last year in September before we even wrote exams, I had hope but till now I have not got anything positive. Every company I apply to tells me that they cannot take attachees,” said Mr Moyo.

Mr Vuyolwenkosi Mzizi, a Local Governance student at Lupane State University, said he had secured a place at a local company but he was later dismissed when the lockdown kept getting extended.

“I got an attachment place last year in November and when the lockdown started in January, I was told to wait at home now I have been recently informed that the company no longer has the capacity to accommodate interns. I have to start searching again yet time is no longer on my side, said Mr Mzizi.

Lupane State University Director of marketing and communication, Mr Zwelithini Dlamini said students who fail to undergo that educational phase will have to defer.

“So far, we do not have cases of students who could not secure attachment but in the event, there is, they will have to defer so that they accommodate that component of their studies.

“In the Faculties of Commerce and Humanities & Social Sciences the students have been attached to institutions that have traditionally absorbed them. However, working from home has meant that companies have taken lesser attachees, the coordinators have had to explore new places for attachment. In the case of the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, they attached students to their demonstration plot at the main campus. In exceptional instances they have attached students to specialised institutions such as irrigation schemes under intensive supervision, said Mr Dlamini.

However, Mr Dlamini said there has not been any reduction in the minimum attachment period.

“The attachment minimum period remains the same, there are no adjustments that have been made, said Mr Dlamini.

National University of Science and Technology Director of Marketing and Communication, Mr Thabani Mpofu said the institution is still assessing the situation since the lockdown has been eased.

“The University is assessing the situation with a view of assisting all students. Following the relaxation of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, some companies have started operating thereby creating opportunities for student internships. Our Industrial Attachment Coordinators are busy assisting students in securing internship places.

The University will do its best to assist all the students, as we did in the previous academic year under Covid-19 environment. We urge all students who are yet to be attached to liaise with their Industrial Attachment Coordinators,” said Mr Mpofu. Chronicle

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