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08 Sep 2019

“Why we choose NUL” say Zimbabwean Masters of Sustainable Energy students

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The National University of Lesotho (NUL) Masters of Sustainable Energy is beginning to generate international interest. Today we look at how the top-notch Masters Program attracted two students from as far as Zimbabwe. “It is a good program,” agree Oliver Nyamukondiwa and Hopewell Gumbo, the Zimbabwean duo who come from an African country famed for its love for good education.

The two did not plan to come to NUL together. They just happened to have liked the same program, in the same country and the same university. And they just happened to be both from Zimbabwe. But both agree on one thing. They are getting what they bargained for—perhaps better than that.

Armed with the knowledge and experience he is receiving at NUL, Gumbo was able to make this bold statement, “With what I have, I cannot be intimidated as I pursue policies governing green energy back home in Zimbabwe.”

Both of them were motivated by slightly different reasons for coming to NUL. Think about Nyamukondiwa, for instance.
“I am in construction, working for a big international construction company,” He said.

His eyes lit up as he explained why he was studying the program and why he had always wanted to know more about green energy. As he relates his interests, you are left with an impression that you have met a thinker, a visionary.

He said that if you are a project manager like him in a construction company, there is one thing that keeps you awake at night—costs. If you truly want to have a good business and satisfied customers, your interest in costs does not end with the cost of construction. They continue to the cost of operation of the building you constructed.

And then he makes this keen observation, “sustainable energy has low cost, yet you hardly see the use of sustainable energy in construction.” Whether we talk about the machinery used in construction or energy used to power a building, sustainable energy is often no part of the deal.

Well it might be expensive to buy solar panels to power your building in the beginning. However, once you have the panels, you are now tapping into a free energy. “That is what attracts me most,” Nyamukondiwa said.

Then he reveals an interesting statistic, “When a building starts operating, about 40% of the costs of maintaining it, on average, goes to energy!” A whopping 40%! That is nearly half the costs of running your building.

In cases where they have to move water, Nyamukondiwa said he is looking into using sustainable energy. For instance, he is learning the importance of harnessing the amazing power of gravity to move water. Where pumps are needed to move water, he wants to assist his company to tap into the use of sustainable energy to run the pumps.

So how does he feel about the programme? In short, “it opened my mind,” he said. “For instance, suppose you want to supply a whole village with water. I have just learned how, thanks goodness, you can also use the same water to generate electricity to supply the same village with power at the same time.”

Normally, service providers rarely think about harnessing multiple benefits from a single commodity.

It is no wonder then, that when Nyamukondiwa saw an advert on the internet and, again, elsewhere, about Masters of Sustainable Energy at NUL, he went for it. He did not look to the left, or to the right. Turning back would be fatal.

Mr Hopewell Gumbo had his reasons too.
Back in Zimbabwe, he works for an international organisation that, among others, promotes sound policies in sustainable energy.

Time came when he had to empower himself on issues of sustainable energy to do his assignments more effectively.

So he sifted through Southern African universities in search for programmes that spoke to his needs. Then he came across a programme tailor-made for his needs—in no other than the tiny Mountain Kingdom.

He went for it.

“The programme is amazingly designed to be interdisciplinary,” Gumbo said. “That is something you rarely see offered in other universities,” he concluded. “The quality of this programme will enable me to make a strong intervention on issues of energy back home.”

When it comes to Zimbabwean energy landscape, he knows a thing or two about his home country. Energy supply there has become very unreliable recently. Power cuts are common due to the so-called load-shedding. So part of his job is to convince the government to develop policies that would favour sustainable energy over conventional sources of energy.

“Whenever issues of economic development are discussed, sustainable energy often takes the back sit,” he said. And then he ended with this rhetorical question, “it is true that a business narrative is important, but why not do it in a sustainable way?”

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