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Outcry over Zimbabwe varsity fees increase

by Staff reporter
30 Aug 2023 at 06:44hrs | Views
THE marginal increase in fees for public university students is meant to meet operational costs while ensuring quality education at a time when the Government is subsidising tuition fees and levies by up to 70 percent, a senior Government official has said.

With most universities opening this week and next week for the first semester, there is an outcry among students who feel the latest fee increase is a huge burden to them.

Lupane and Midlands State Universities have already notified students of the new fee structure in which students are expected to pay partly in foreign currency.

According to a notice from LSU, students should pay at least 60 percent of the fees (levies and tuition) in foreign currency. Some faculties for undergraduate students require payment of US$401 and between ZW$1,5 million and ZW$2 million in local currency.

Students said this is a huge jump as they were paying $ 427 800 in the previous semester. At the Midlands State University, the fees are said to be ranging from US$618 going upwards.

In an interview yesterday, Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development Permanent Secretary, Professor Fanuel Tagwira, said the fees increment is a direct response to factors prevailing in the macro-economic environment.

"Most of the universities struggled to remain operational last year as goods and services had gone up even in US dollars. What was happening then was that students would delay paying fees until the local currency lost value," said Prof Tagwira.

He said by pegging the fees in US dollars, the universities were trying to store value but will accept payment in local currency.

"What the universities are doing is exactly what is happening across the economy where prices are pegged in foreign currency but can still be paid in local currency," said Prof Tagwira.

He said prior to increasing university fees, a fees committee, which includes students' bodies are engaged in deciding what could be an acceptable and affordable fee increase. Prof Tagwira said as such students' bodies were engaged before the latest fee reviews.

 He said while students are complaining that the fees are seemingly high, they are still lower than what is paid at some primary and secondary schools.

Prof Tagwira said for instance the University of Zimbabwe charges US$470, a fee which is lower than what primary and secondary schools are charging.

"Parents and guardians should understand that students at universities are paying 30 percent of what they are supposed to pay. The Government is subsidising higher and tertiary education through paying up to 70 percent of the tuition and levies fees at universities. We are doing so to make sure that education remains accessible to all," said Prof Tagwira.

He said medical students, for example, were paying as little as US$470 a semester, which is not enough to  cover training which includes practicals like doing surgeries.

"The money they are paying is not even enough to pay a lecturer, that is why the Government is coming in to subsidise their education," said Prof Tagwira.

He said if universities do not increase fees there is a high likelihood of compromising the quality of education.

Student Representative Council president at Lupane State University Mr Theophillus Mudavanhu said the new fees were too high and as such most  students cannot afford. He said the students' body has called on students to boycott lectures while engagements on fees are ongoing.

"We have engaged the university over the new fees. In the past we were paying fees in the range of US$350 but now the fees have been increased to US$700 which is too high," Mr Mudavanhu.

Source - The Chronicle
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