26 June 2017

Zimbabwe: Mawarire Charged As Trainee Doctors Expelled

The University of Zimbabwe's (UZ) evicted all medical students from campus residence Monday afternoon following a protest over an unwelcome decision to hike fees by at least 30 percent.

"The security department has reported this morning that a gathering of medical students at the Students Union building had started throwing stones, a behavior that the University of Zimbabwe does not tolerate," the UZ said in a notice on Monday.

"The University has now made a decision that all medical students should move out of halls of residence on campus and off campus with immediate effect. All medical students are therefore directed to vacate halls of residence with immediate effect and by no later than 13:15 hours, June 27, 2017."

But according to students, campus security assaulted some of the students with baton sticks while Pastor Evan Mawarire was arrested after addressing them.

According to his lawyer, Mawarire was charged with "disorderly conduct in a public place".

Mawarire told the students that the recent hike of fees from around $700 per semester to 1 500 was "an injustice".

He said, "It is an assault on the future of our nation and we as the protectors and owners of that future - we cannot allow it to carry on. So these fees must definitely fall."

According to a university circular, the approximately 800 affected students in third to final year now have to pay $900 in tuition up from $723.

But, according to Students Representative Council treasury general Ignatius Mukwichi, each student now requires about $1 700 per term including accommodation and other associated costs.

Wearing their white jackets, some torn shoes, the trainee doctors chanted "Tohuririra fees here?" and "My mother is a vendor; Fees Must Fall".

Mukwichi told New Zimbabwe that students were averse to the university's decision to unilaterally increase fees at a time their parents are either underpaid or out of formal employment.

"The fees have gone up by a margin of more than 33 percent and administration is using meaningless phrases such as pro-rating to justify the increase," Mukwichi said.

According to the university, all medical students pay $450 tuition for the standard 15 week semester while third year students now have to pay $900 for their 30 week semesters.

But Mukwichi argued, "There are semesters that we don't write exams but we pay exam fees. There are years when we don't do laboratory experiments but we pay laboratory fees. Whether we use the bus or not we pay $100. Part one you use the bus only Fridays, part two and five not even.

"All these are loopholes we want plugged instead of fees hike. In this economy, we can't allow any fees increment. There are students already failing to pay the $772. No one is getting salary increment."

Mukwichi suggested that medicine students in state universities should be subsidised by government.

"Why is government not subsidising our education so that we go and work for three years there after finishing our studies?" he queried.

Thousands of students, according to Zinasu, are dropping out of university every year due to failure to meet tuition obligations.

During the protest Dean of students Munyaradzi Madambi said the decision was irreversible further threatening the students with unspecified action.

"Number one the position to rationalize fees is irreversible, number two those who can't pay make a payment plan, number three I don't want hear anyone later saying I was in the dark. Whatever is happening here if it continues the consequences are likely not to be desirable," he said.

Madambi added, "What is likely to happen is if it continues in the next 30 minutes everyone in res would be thrown out."

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