THE Zimbabwe Open University (Zou)’s Department of Peace, Leadership and Conflict Resolution is rocked by serious allegations of corruption involving foreign students paying tuition fees in foreign currency and attendant arbitrage activities.
Sources at Zou say some lecturers at the university’s Harare learning centres are running a racket for self-enrichment by collecting fees from foreign students, who include locals based outside the country, and then paying for them in local currency a fraction of the fees in real terms due to exchange rate differentials.
This helps them to make money through arbitrage, prejudicing the university. “It’s a clear case of arbitrage. You get one currency in one market and take advantage of exchange rate differentials to make money,” a source said.
“The only problem here is that this involves some corrupt practices of collaboration, deception and lies. But the arbitrage opportunities are huge and profitable in this scam. Students also benefit from the scam as they are asked to pay much less in forex if they agree to the deals. So everyone benefits.”
Foreign students pay as if they are locally registered to be allowed to settle their fees in local currency. Lecturers change their registration in order to pay much less and take the difference through arbitrage.
But arbitrage is just one of the corrupt practices at the university. The sources said some lecturers are also charging students for assignments and dissertations, which they write for them for payment. Some students who do virtual classes are presented as if they are actually physically attending classes to assist them to pass for payment.
Apart from that, Zou lecturers, who work on contract basis, are manipulating the system to give their friends more work to earn more. Those in charge always make sure their associates get more time to teach than others, hence more money.
“There is a lot of corruption going on at Zou in relation to payment of fees by foreign students and other things, such as a virtual classes and writing of assignments and dissertations,” a source said.
“What is more lucrative is lecturers collecting hard currency from foreign students or students outside who pay in forex, but pay for them an equivalent amount in local currency. So instead of remitting the forex, they present them as local so that they pay in RTGS or using a bank card. Given the exchange rate, which is now US$1 to ZW$160 in the informal market, it means they make a lot of money over nothing. All said and done, paying in forex is 99.9% higher than paying in local currency.”
Another source said: “Corruption is also rife in relation to virtual classes which involves foreign students. Some lecturers lie that some students attended lessons locally when they didn’t to justify awarding them marks on subjects they did not actually do.
“Currently there are virtual students’ dissertations being supervised and marked as local students. The virtual students pay for people to do their research.” The sources said this is prevalent at the Peace, Leadership and Conflict Resolution Department at Harare’s main post office chaired by Andrew Mukono. Mukono last week said he was not aware of the corrupt practices in his department. He also distanced himself from any corrupt activities.
“I have nothing to do with payment of fees for foreign students. If you are you to get the truth of the matter , nowhere have I got money from students. That is a fabrication I have never done anything of that sort. If there is anyone who wants to tarnish my image, my hands are clean.” — STAFF WRITER