Students petition Moyo over grants

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\n HARARE – Tertiary students have requested a meeting with Higher Education minister, Jonathan Moyo, and a parliamentary panel to discuss the re-introduction of students’ grants.

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\n University of Zimbabwe (UZ) Students’ Representative Council (SRC) has since written to Parliament and Moyo’s office over the engagement, which they said would also help clarify government’s position on tertiary fees and attachment issues.

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\n In December last year, Moyo promised to re-introduce student loans this year, at a Zanu PF conference.

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\n But the students fear the minister could have been grandstanding as there was no clarity over how the grants would be introduced, a few weeks before the commencement of the 2016/2017 second semester next month.

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\n “It would be folly of the highest kind and unparalleled naivety for us to just accept Moyo’s promise as it is and not make any follow up.

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\n “The government has promised to bring back loans before without actually doing so,” UZ SRC spokesperson, Tafadzwa Chabata, said.

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\n “This is what has motivated us to seek a meeting with Moyo so we can hear from the horse’s mouth exactly when and how loans are going to be availed to students,” he said.

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\n “We want to know the number of students the loan facility is going to cater for, the total amount that will be available, conditions for accessing of loans and conditions for repayment among other things.”

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\n Moyo said the student loans would improve skills and manpower development.

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

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\n In a January 16 letter to Moyo, UZ SRC president Tinotenda Mhungu said they also wanted to meet the minister so they could work out how Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund (Zimdef) funds can help students doing research.

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\n “We propose the following matter to be considered as part of the agenda in the meeting; clarity on dates and structure of the proposed re-introduction of students’ grants and or loans,” Mhungu said.

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\n The proposed matters include “rationalisation of academic fees particularly for students on attachment, establishment of a gender charter for the protection of the girl-child, explanations on the Zimdef and how it can benefit and assist university students in their researches as well as engagement on the urgent need for the amendment of Ordinance 30 and re-alignment of the Universities Act to the current Constitution”.

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\n In another letter to Parliament, the students said they believed the legislature could intervene in contentious issues that were affecting students’ welfare in the country.

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\n “This need comes in the wake of lack of clarity on certain debates and issues affecting students and the satisfaction of engagement between the student representatives and your office as the immediate parliamentary committee responsible for representation of all student welfares and liaisons of universities with government,” Mhungu wrote.

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