Govt broken promises shatter dreams

HARARE - Lorraine* will not forget the day she was accepted into university. Her poor  background had never stopped her from dreaming big and it only helped matters that she was under the government’s cadetship programme.

Under the programme, government pays fees for underprivileged students, supposedly giving a relief to thousands who could have failed to proceed with education despite being talented.

Lorraine is due to graduate this year and already scenarios of the future were spinning in her head.
Maybe her mother can finally leave that vegetable stall she has occupied since Lorraine started going to school in 1995 as she might now take  over the responsibilities of looking after the family.

But there is a problem that represents a huge setback and government is the cause.

Under  the cadetship scheme, government pays fees for students who are then  expected to work in Zimbabwe after completing college for an equal  number of years they received state funding.

It pays for three quarters of students at state universities.

Government has withdrawn from the cadetship scheme, and she cannot afford to pay her fees.

Scores  of students from poor families relying on state support have been  forced out of universities because government continues defaulting on payments under the cadetship scheme, and universities’ patience with Treasury has run low.

Currently, about 50 000 students on the cadetship programme are being denied  registration at their respective institutions. They owe universities a combined $100 million.

Lorraine, whose mother is a vegetable vendor, says she is disappointed at the government’s misplaced priorities.

“I cannot access my results to look for employment. I cannot attend  classes because I am not able to write exams after the semester. Government must help us in this fight,” says the 24-year-old.

For example, the University of Zimbabwe is reportedly owed an estimated $8  million by government under the student cadetship programme.

The university is demanding that all students, including those under cadetship, pay full tuition fees for the 2012/2013 first semester.

Higher Education minister Stan Mudenge says Finance minister Tendai Biti has so far released a paltry $1 million for the cadetship programme instead  of $42 million needed for the scheme.

Mudenge says the complaints by universities were genuine and blamed  government’s non-payment of fees to the universities on the ministry of Finance, which he described as the “unreasonable partner”.

Mudenge said he engaged Biti recently over the issue with no results.

“He is not even sensitive to the pressures the universities and polytechnics are going through,” says Mudenge.

This comes after the Finance ministry’s disbursement of $6 million for the payment of third term school fees for children of former liberation war fighters of the 1970s.

Biti could not be reached for comment. But he recently said government would avail the funds to the learning institutions “soon”.

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