- Southern Africa
- Education - Demonstration
Zimbabwe university students begin class boycotts
More than 200 Zimbabwean university students staged a protest march late Tuesday in Harare voicing their disquiet over exorbitant tuition fees at state colleges ahead of class boycotts starting Wednesday.
The students are demanding an urgent review of fees from a high of US$700 per semester depending on the diploma or degree programme to as low $20 per semester. Protesting under the banner of Zimbabwe National Students Union (Zinasu) they handed over a petition to the ministry for higher education officials.
It reads, "Tuition fees in universities are ranging from $400 to $700. These fees are exorbitant and beyond the reach of the majority who are supported by peasants and civil servants (...) Tuition fees must be slashed to affordable levels ranging between $20-100."
Zinasu also called on the government to restore grants and medical aid to assist students in the country’s universities. "There is massive shortage of teaching and learning materials in all institutions due to inadequate funding by the government," it added.
Government has defended the fee structure saying it was necessary to lift education standards – once hailed as one of the best in sub-Saharan Africa – that had been on a free-fall over the past decade.
Zimbabwe’s education sector was hit by the country’s economic collapse and political chaos following disputed polls last year, with the UN children’s agency declaring the country’s schools a "national disaster" earlier this year. Tertiary institutions were also affected with several, including the flagship University of Zimbabwe, forced to close their doors for months.
Poverty is high in Zimbabwe where most government workers earn an average salary of $150, following the formation of a unity government in February. Unemployment is running at 94%.
Today all Zimbabwe university and college students will begin boycotting classes to pressure education authorities to addresse their plight. "We have been at all state colleges and universities countrywide, drumming up support from the students ahead of the nationwide demonstrations that start on Wednesday," ZINASU) president Clever Bere said.
"As ZINASU, we are saying a big NO to the privatisation of education, we are saying we can’t have our colleagues being forced to drop studies because of lack of fees," he added.
The class boycotts would be held under the banner – National Campaign Against the Privatisation of Education in Zimbabwe (NACAPEZ). The boycotts will further pile pressure on the government that is battling to convince teachers to call off a strike action over pay that has entered its second week.
A number of university and college students have been forced to drop studies due to high tuition fees ranging from anything between US$400 to US$1000.