I visited the Harare Polytechnic over two days after I had heard that the graphic Arts department had been scrapped. I was happy to see that was not the case. And went about finding out the state of the programme. Apparently the course is now structured in such a way that it is difficult to FAIL!

Entrance to the Harare Polytechnic

I managed to see a few life drawing pictures. I was one of the weakest at life drawing in our class but what I saw of the final years would not have made the grade at first year. This was an introduction to what was going to be a disappointing and some what depressing revelation of the state of affairs at the once illustrious Polytechnic

Final year life drawing…

Entry Requirements

The most disappointing thing about the art programme at the Polytechnic was the relaxing of the entry requirements. Before it was necessary for a prospective student to present a portfolio of their work. Then these would be screened. Then all successful candidates would have to come through for an interview where they had to do a drawing test and then a verbal interview. Then only when you have passed would you get a place. Now all that has been scrapped. And the art department plays no part in recruiting or screening students for the course.

Corridor entering the art department

Lecturers

There are currently four lecturers in the department with some majoring in fine art and some who are not even qualified designers!

New ID cards, which you cannot swipe to access entry etc.

Graduates

This year the final class has 8 people in it. the class started off with 16 students. 10 boys and 6 girls. Now only three girls with one repeating because she fell pregnant and the other came back from the internship and decided to repeat. Some of the boys are repeating and some have dropped out completely.

The ceramics studio with some work on the shelves

Computers

There are about 10 computers in the lab all PCs and they are working in Corel Draw, which is quite sad as this is hardly industry standard. But credit is due to the department as the computers are in good condition running on Windows 8 and have 21″ flat screen monitors. The students are also starting computers in the first year as opposed to the second year.

One of the lecture rooms for design

Design For Print

The design for print programme is now 4 years with one full year left for internship. During that year you pay your normal fees and you have a log book which you have to fill in at the end of each week, detailing the projects you worked on through out the week. While there you are assigned a supervisor and lecturers from the college come through to assess your progress, going through the log book. They also sit with the supervisor to gauge progress. At the end of the year the student writes a report on their internship.

View of the ceramics studio from the courtyard

Assignments and assessments

The shocking revelation I learnt was that there are no longer critiques on work. During the time that we studied on the day an assignment was due, the first thing when we came into class was to put all the work up. Each student would speak about their work and then the floor would be opened for critique from the rest of the class. I found this to be of great benefit in maintaining the standard of work, creating healthy competition and drawing insights from a pool of other designers. Course work now consists of 6 assignments throughout the term. Life drawing is no longer a mandatory course and is dropped in the final year.

The court yard where students catch some sun during breaks

National Exams

Each year there are now national exams in 5 subjects – Project, GD Theory, GD Practical, Exhibition design (3D studies), Object Drawing, Print making

The print making studio

Digital Photography

The students also do basic digital photography which is definitely a bonus and commendable that the college see it as a necessary part of the programme

Final year life drawing…

Conclusion

Maybe its some consolation that the department even exists. The colleges’ attitude towards the graphics department portrays exactly how the government views the arts in Zimbabwe. Entering the programme without a portfolio and lowering the standard of entry. This is also going to kill the industry at large as each year more and more incompetent college leavers are coming out of college with diplomas in graphic design but with really no idea or the skill that would be required of a person with a four year diploma.

Life Drawing studio

When we left in 2006 we had started the process of updating the curriculum and we had proposed to change the name of the course as it was also outdated together with the curriculum. Do agencies and design studios have any responsibility because they will be the beneficiaries of well rounded students. What role can they play if any? Having lectured at the Poly at one stage, I would hate to be a lecturer there now with these very lax standards and entry requirements. But I give full credit to the lecturers who are there who are putting in the hard yards and their time.

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