19 October 2017

Zimbabwe: Russia - Zim Students Say Unpaid for a Year - Some Turn to Prostitution

Photo: The New Times
A female sex worker (file photo).

Zimbabwean students studying in Russia under the presidential scholarship have reportedly gone for over a year without receiving any financial support from the government, with some turning to immoral activities to survive.

The Harare government has agreement with several countries both in Africa and overseas where they send underprivileged students for graduate study.

However, a comatose local economy has affected the scholarship scheme as the Zanu PF led government has been failing to honour its end of the deal, which is to provide stipends to the students, most of whom come from poor backgrounds.

In a heartrending lamentation, one of the students studying in Russia said they have not yet been paid their stipends for the 2016-2017 academic year.

"It has been over a year now since we haven't received our stipend for the 2016-2017 academic year and recently the portfolio for Russian students changed from the ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education to the President's office.

"Normally this should mean things are now supposed to get better but they have got from bad to worse, the representative from the President's office said they will not pay us for the past academic year 2016-2017, they will start paying us for the 2017-2018 academic year(sic)," said the student.

She claimed that some of her colleagues were resorting to prostitution in order to survive.

"I have proof that lots of girls have resorted to prostitution and when I say proof I mean actual video footage of some of the girls at night."

The Presidential and National Scholarships Programme which was recently moved to the president's office, was turned into a fully-fledged ministry following President Mugabe's recent cabinet reshuffle.

However, opposition political parties have often criticised the programme saying it was benefitting those connected to the ruling party instead of deserving students.

Meanwhile, the Russia-based student said most of her colleagues were willing to abandon their studies and return to Zimbabwe.

"We want to come back home please tell the government to buy tickets for us, kana chiri chkoro chacho ngachigare hacho (we would rather do without such opportunities).

"A lot of students have arrears in hostel fees, medical aid and exams and our visas are now expiring in less than a month," the student lamented.

Some of the students reached out to Higher and Tertiary Education Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo via his twitter page and he promised to relay their pleas to the relevant offices.

The students say government officials have told them that their parents must provide the stipends, a position they dismissed as ridiculous since the scholarship programme caters for those from poor backgrounds.

"This type of scholarship is strictly for the underprivileged and orphaned students," said the Russia-based student.

"If you can't prove that you are poor you don't get a place which comes back to our argument; they are now saying government does not have money so your parents or relatives should send you money.

"But who can send us that money when we are orphans? Who?"

She continued; "Recently, the portfolio for Russian students changed from the ministry of higher and tertiary education to the president's office.

"Normally this should mean things are now supposed to get better but they have gone from bad to worse.

"The representative from the president's office said they will not pay us for the past academic year 2016-2017 ... they will start paying us for the 2017-2018 academic year! Really?!

"In other words, they have just robbed us of our stipend for the entire year! Imagine being told that for the past year that you have been working we are not going to pay you even ... let's just start on this particular new year.

"Why are these people so heartless? Havana vana here (don't they have children too)?"

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