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Education for elite as soaring college fees paralyse the poor



THE Zimbabwe National Students’ Union (Zinasu) says endless fees hikes by colleges are infringing the right to education, amid fears of an increase in dropouts.


 For the past five years, college and university students have witnessed a sharp rise in tuition and accommodation fees.

The fees hikes are aggravated by the continuous depreciation of the Zimbabwe dollar.

 Most tertiary learning institutions are now levying fees in United States dollars and even in instances where they accept the Zimbabwe dollar, the amounts demanded are beyond the reach of many students.

 A snap survey by The NewsHawks revealed that tuition and accommodation fees are sky[1]rocketing, which could worsen the dropout rate.

For instance, accommodation fees at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) increased to US$715 from US$661 ahead of the semester set to commence on 26 February.

 The Midlands State University (MSU) hiked its fees from US$933 to US$1 888 for students in the Faculty of Medicine. Talking to The NewsHawks, a Zinasu spokesperson at the UZ, Darlington Chigwena, said the exorbitant fees being charged by tertiary institutions have become unaffordable and are an infringement of the right to education.

“As far as we are concerned, we are being de[1]nied our right to affordable and accessible education, it is crystal clear to us that the astronomical hiking of fees in all the tertiary institutions in Zimbabwe is immoderate on the fact that we are witnessing a plethora of students who are dropping out of their education due to financial crisis, due to the fact that the amount of fees which is required is not corresponding with the salaries which are being earned by our parents,” Chigwena said.

 “Insofar as we are concerned, the fees lack fairness and are totally unconstitutional and illegal. That is also ruining the future of the students because education is supposed to be affordable and accessible. And this amount of tuition fee is not affordable to some of the stu[1]dents, yet education should be accessible to everyone. It must be affordable to everyone.

 “Education is not only for the elites. It is not only for the minority but for everyone. Education is supposed to be inclusive.”

Another student activist and Zinasu chairperson at the MSU, Keegan Mathe, told The NewHawks that government workers are now unable to send their children to universities.

 “Civil servants are not able to afford academic fees at tertiary level because tertiary institutions insistently hike their fees. Apart from that, the fees are hiked in US dollars over the Real-Time Gross Settlement, so this goes on to say that the preferred currency in tertiary institutions has become the US dollar which they hardly earn. At Midlands State University, 60% of the total fees should be paid in US dollars and for most students that 60% is above US$ 400, yet civil servants are earning less than that and are earning in local currency,” Mathe said.

 Earlier this month, Zinasu’s MSU Gweru chapter wrote a letter to the registrar of academic affairs crying foul over exorbitant and unfair payment conditions.

 “It has come to our attention that there has been a significant increase in fees for the current academic year. While it is understandable that universities require funding to maintain their standards and provide quality education, the drastic nature of this increase is causing immense financial strain on students and their families. This sudden rise in fees without proper justification or consideration for the economic realities faced by the majority of Zimbabweans is deeply concerning,” read the letter.

 The letter added: “Furthermore, we would like to draw your attention to the disparity in payment methods and currency requirements. It is unjust and discriminatory to demand that students pay 60% of their fees in USD when the majority of Zimbabweans, including civil servants, are paid in RTGS. This creates an unfair burden on students, as they are forced to bear the additional costs associated with currency conversion and fluctuations. Moreover, the university’s practice of charging an interbank rate higher than the actual bank rate only exacerbates the financial strain placed on students.”

Mathe cried foul over the commodification of education and privatisation of state institutions.

“Education is a basic right, so the commoditisation of education or the privatisation of state institutions has been unbearable such that it has been viewed as an elitist movement of trying to accommodate those who afford. Education is a basic human right that should be affordable and accessible to all. It is also enshrined in our constitution that education should be availed to all,” he said.

The constitution of Zimbabwe states that: “Every citizen and permanent resident of Zimbabwe has a right to a basic state-funded education (including adult education); and further education which the state must progressively make available and accessible.  Every person has the right to establish and maintain, at their own expense, independent educational institutions provided they meet reasonable standards and do not discriminate on any grounds.”