UZ students protest fees hike

HARARE – College of Health Sciences students yesterday peacefully protested at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) over a 35 percent fee hike imposed by the learning institution.

Administration informed students in a January 4, 2017 notice — signed by the university’s vice chancellor Levi Nyagura — that fees for medicine scholars had been increased to $1 043 from $773.

Efforts to obtain comment from the administration were fruitless as their phones went unanswered.

UZ’s Student Representative Council (SRC) described the move as “inconsiderate” and “ill-timed.”

“The fact that students dropped out of college en masse last year is evidence that they are struggling to make ends meet.

“It is common knowledge that the on-going economic crisis has rendered general citizens incapable of raising sufficient money to pay fees for their dependents,” the Council’s vice president Zivai Mhetu said.

“The UZ administration is fully aware of the challenges students are facing in securing fees yet it has chosen to raise fees when the situation on the ground actually demands a fees reduction,” he said.

The affected students argue that they were already struggling to pay fees before the hike due to economic challenges.

Student representative bodies have reported massive dropout rates at universities because of tuition fees challenges, with the  Zimbabwe National Students’ Union claiming that at least 12 000 threw in the towel in the first quarter of 2016 alone.

Hiking fees also makes it more difficult for the less-affluent, minority students to afford higher education.

Students see the trend as a form of privatisation that excludes the poor.

Weakening of the education system is considered particularly severe in a State hardest-hit by a biting economic recession.

UZ is expected to open for its second semester for the 2016/2017 academic year next month.

The students castigated the university’s administration for not consulting them before making the decision.

“The UZ administration, through the Senate, is supposed to consult us before it raises fees,” UZ SRC spokesperson Tafadzwa Chabata added.

“As the UZ SRC, we were elected for the sole purpose of representing students and giving them a voice in college bodies such as the senate and fees revision committees where important issues such as those to do with fees are discussed,” he said.

“We are greatly disgruntled and immensely disappointed by the fact that the administration chose to raise fees behind our back and we will be taking the administration to task as soon as we meet as the SRC to plan a way forward.”

Unconfirmed reports say Lupane State University in Matabeleland also increased fees by close to $350.

Youth Advocacy for Reform and Democracy member, Howard Madya, lambasted government for failing to cater for students.

“The government no longer cares about students and officials are after self-enrichment. We will do all things necessary to ensure that the fees increment is suspended,” he said. – Daily News

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