STATE Universities and polytechnic colleges are owed more than US$64 million by Treasury in tuition fees as of December last year, a situation that has crippled operations in the institutions of higher learning, an official has said. Director of University Education in
the Higher and Tertiary Education ministry, Mrs Martha Muguti said Finance Minister Tendai Biti did not consult on the type of funding for students but only announced them during presentation of his national budget statements.
She said this yesterday while giving oral evidence before a Parliamentary portfolio committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology chaired by Insiza South MP Mr Siyabonga Ncube (MDC).
"The Ministry of Finance owes us about US$64 million in tuition fees. You can imagine the devastating effect the non payment of the money has on us. We are in serious financial distress and to say this is actually an understatement," said Mrs Muguti.
"Since January 2013, no single cent has been released for operations. We remain open but under serious financial distress, the debt continue ballooning on a yearly basis."
Some projects in Bindura University of Science Education and Lupane University, she said, had been stalled after failing to pay contractors and consultancies.
On funding mode, Mrs Muguti said Minister Biti announce them unilaterally.
"The type of funding has been dictated to us. We do not have the money. We were only told that they will be loan and grants and we just read it in the newspapers. We were never consulted," she said.
She said while learning institutions have partnered some organisations, this had not brought much changes.
She said it was critical that Government fund learning institutions.
Mrs Mugutu said inadequate funding also impacted on industry which requires human resources.
"It does not matter how advanced the industry is. Without the human resources, you still need them to run those computers. This is the foundation of economic growth. We produce the manpower which this country needs," she said.
She said universities had been urged to offer programmes that were consistent with what the market wanted.
Legislators asked what the ministry was doing to protect female students from HIV/AIDS, at the hands of unscrupulous people.
Mrs Muguti said proper teaching on such issues should start from homes and tertiary institutions would merely complement the information.
Director of Finance and Administration in the Ministry, Mr Milton Chabururuka said Treasury had sought to introduce student loans two years ago through financial institutions but the deal failed to materialise.
He said Treasury had only released US$750 000 this year from the US$64 million they are owed.
"If we are getting US$750 000 per year on a US$64 million debt, I do not know how many years it will take to clear that. This excluded the new requirements," he said.