Institutions of higher learning among them universities, polytechnics recently increased tuition fees much to students and guardians’ displeasure resulting in flash demonstrations in some institutions notably University of Zimbabwe with students calling upon authorities to reduce fees under the #fees must fall campaign.
According to some reports, fees went up by as much as 1000% for some faculties, students being required to pay as much as US1000 or ZWI $1million equivalent in local currency raising fears that our education system could become elitist disadvantaging poor members of our society who could possibly drop out owing to exorbitant fees required.
Responding to new fees structures the President Emmerson Mnangagwa who is the Chancellor of all State universities challenged learners to take advantage of Government facilitated loans amid reports of low uptake with only 10 000 students having benefitted despite facility open for all, writing for a weekly publication (Sunday Mail).
“Following this decision on fees by governing university councils, I as Chancellor of all State universities requested university authorities to furnish me with comparative schedule for fees charged by similar institutions in our region and beyond. After receiving and examining the schedule, it has become apparent that old fees which our universities were charging had become untenable while new ones are either reasonable, still below or within range of what their peers are charging with exception of universities in Malawi and Namibia, with the rest in SADC region at par or below,” said President Mnangagwa.
Could it be that students and guardians are not aware of this noble initiative offered by Government or lack of knowledge on how they can access these loans which will go a long way in cushioning them in furthering their education?
The right to education is provided for in the Zimbabwean Constitution, Section 75, entitles every citizen and permanent resident of Zimbabwe to a basic state funded education including adult basic education and further education which the State through reasonable legislative and other measures must make progressively available and accessible. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 of the United Nations (UN) seeks to ensure inclusive, equitable quality education promoting learning opportunities for all, key target under this SDG is to ensure girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality education leading to effective outcomes by 2030.
In that same spirit Acting Registrar of University of Zimbabwe Munyaradzi Madambi called on students to come forward and make payment plans insisting that no student had been barred from studying due to nonpayment or insufficient fees.
This could be a better move that will give equal opportunities to all to study without denying them that right as enshrined in our constitution.
As debate rages on, on exorbitant fees structures, we just hope and wait patiently that institutions of higher learning will walk the talk by coming up with user friendly policies such as payment plans, giving information on Government assisted loans their terms and conditions among some issues so as not to deny students their right to education.
Article is produced by Public and Communications Department of the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe