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International - March 22, 2021

Africa University funding on the Increase

Tension in paying Tuition could set back education in Africa

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 Zimbabwean state universities have increased tuition fees by up to a massive 450%, in a development which students said was insensitive, considering the economic crisis in the country.

The fee hike caught many in the sector off guard following assurances by the government in January 2021 that it would block increases until the threat of Covid -19 had subsided.

As the reality of the increases began to surface, the country’s largest student union, the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU), said it was shocked that Professor Amon Murwira, the minister of higher and tertiary education, innovation, science, and technology development, had approved the fees.

Last year, students were paying an average of ZWL$9,000 (about US$100), but the figures have gone up significantly, ranging from ZWL$20,000 (about US$200) to about ZWL$40,000 (US$400) per semester.

As educational institutions started to reopen on 15 March, they began notifying students of their new fee structures.

The National University of Science and Technology (NUST) pegged fees for undergraduate courses at ZWL$32,000, postgraduate at ZWL$34,000, and masters at ZWL$45,000.

An NUST journalism student said he was paying ZWL$8,300 but now he has to find ZWL$32,000.

At the Great Zimbabwe University (GZU), undergraduates will pay between ZWL$25,960 and ZWL$30,060, postgraduates from ZWL$34,445 to ZWL$39,655, masters students will fork out between ZWL$37,750 and ZWL$44,045, while doctoral students will pay from ZWL$45,000 up to ZWL$57,000.

University World News reported in January that Murwira said that the purpose of the country’s universities was not to generate profits, and insisted that the current fee structures must be maintained, citing affordability, reasonability, and sustainability as the three factors that determined fee hikes.

“The fee structure we are maintaining at universities is even lower than those being charged by most boarding schools in the country. But, we know that parents are hard-pressed and no fee hikes will be approved until such a time when the economic conditions have relatively improved,” he said at the time.

But, in the past few days, in an interview, Murwira said a consultation process was undertaken before the fees were hiked.

He said at universities there were committees that looked into the issue of fees and students were represented in those committees.

The minister said his ministry did not generate the fee increase schedules but approved what was sent to it by universities.

According to him, the increases were approved last month and the government’s policy was that there would not be any other increase during the course of the year, regardless of any variables or fluctuations in the country’s economy.

“We only approved the proposals. The proposals came from the universities,” he said.

But Taiwanese Chiriga, ZINASU’s secretary-general, said the organization would be approaching the minister this week for a meeting to protest the fee hikes.

He said the fee hike was unconstitutional.

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