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    Sunday, 2 June 2019

    Universities on their knees


    •    Economic crisis brings operations to a halt
    •    Institutions fail to provide exam material
    NKULUMANI MLAMBO

    MASVINGO – The economic crisis bedevilling Zimbabwe has left tertiary institutions on the brink with universities failing to carry out critical activities like assessing students on attachment, paying staff salaries, providing exam material and hiring of assistant lecturers.
    The prospects of universities opening for the next semester in August are bleak and debts are spiralling.
    The Mirror is reliably informed that the matter is so dire that it dominated a meeting between the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology, Professor Amon Murwira and university vice chancellors held in Harare on Monday.
    “There is virtually nothing left to run tertiary institutions with Government having pegged fees at RTGS$600 and yet prices have increased more than eight times. Converted to the Green back, students are now paying a paltry US$80 per semester.
    “We can’t buy basics for universities like fuel, food and do repairs. There is no money for fuel to run the institutions’ fleet of cars and trips to assess students on work-related learning. The universities are grinding to a halt,” said a source that declined to be named.
    The situation is compounded by the fact that many students are even failing to pay the RTGS$600 fixed by Government.
    “Material for examinations have gone up  four times against a stagnant budget forcing colleges to cut down on other areas like sports trips, travels for management, meals and thereby forcing students to eat unbalanced diet,” said the lecturer.
    Great Zimbabwe University public relations director Anderson Chipatiso confirmed that they have stopped recruiting assistant lecturers as resources have dried up.
    “We have introduced a host of measures including a freeze on the recruitment of assistant lecturers and stopped travels by staff and educational trips by students,” said Chipatiso.
    Midlands State University spokesperson Mirirai Mawere said they may face challenges next year if fees remain as they are because prices of food are no longer in tandem with what the students are paying.
     “We are likely to face serious challenges next semester if nothing is done about the fees paid by students, but at the moment we have not been affected much because we pay our suppliers in advance and we also have farms where we get our food suppliers at reasonable costs.
    “Unfortunately we have no control over fees increase as we get a directive from the central Government on that, besides w e also sympathise with the parents as there has not been any significant increase in their incomes,” said Mawere.
    University of Zimbabwe spokesperson, Daniel Chihombori confirmed that they have not increased tuition fees but could not say much as he was attending a funeral service.
    NUST spokesperson could not be reached for a comment, but a lady in the department who spoke on condition of anonymity said the problems that the country is facing are the same everywhere including tertiary institutions and hope the Government will give them the go ahed to increase fees.
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