14 February 2017

Zimbabwe: Era of Free Education Over, Moyo Tells University Students

THE government has scrapped students grants, describing them as unsuitable at a time the Harare administration is financially constrained.

Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo dismissed media reports claiming government was reinstating the student grants scheme.

"We are surprised the media keep referring to grants. This isn't the economy for grants but loans," Moyo told the Higher and Tertiary Education committee of parliament this Monday.

"The loan scheme requires that people work hard and we want that scheme to be just as accessible to every student at tertiary and higher education.

"Because it's a loan scheme, we can't come-up with a budget. That's why it's not in the budget."

He continued: "We are working with the Reserve Bank as well as a micro financial institution that has been mandated by the Reserve Bank to come up with this.

"We are working flat-out now to put it in place well head of August and when the document is ready we will share.

"If you are studying divinity you have to be careful that your church or pastor can gainfully employ you."

Government suspended the grants system about 10 years ago due to funding challenges.

The system was replaced with a cadetship programme under which graduates were bonded by government for an equal number of years they were funded. Again, that programme failed to take-off owing lack of resources.

Recovering the loans Moyo is now proposing may still be difficult in a country with over 80 percent of the adult population informally employed.

Recently the Zimbabwe National Students Union claimed that at least 12,000 students dropped-out of tertiary institutions during the first quarter of last year for failure to meet their tuition fee obligations.

Moyo admitted that universities were seriously under-funded and in need of government support to meet salary costs.

"All universities except one or two are incurring a deficit," said the minister.

"It is because the responsible authority has not been meeting its obligations year in year out. Students and universities come-up with payment plans and still default."

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