HARARE - Zimbabwe National Students Union (Zinasu) has welcomed the suspension of the Presidential Scholarship Programme, saying the bursary should be used to support students in local universities.
Chris Mushowe, head of the scholarship programme said last week enrolment for the Presidential Scholarship Fund had been suspended amid revelations that government was battling to pay tuition fees and cater for the welfare of students living in South Africa.
Mushowe said the government owes South African universities over $1 million in tuition and was failing to provide for the welfare of students.
“Because of lack of funding, we have stopped taking students until we are done with the current lot because we do not have enough funding for the project,” Mushowe said.
“This is largely because since 2010, we did not receive enough funding from Treasury.”
Zinasu said Mugabe should use this suspension to consider funding students in local universities.
“What is the scope of having scholarships for South African universities when we have universities here in Zimbabwe?,” Zinasu national coordinator Samuel Gwenzi said.
“It is far more expensive to support students abroad than here in Zimbabwe
“It is high time the scholarship is used to support students in local universities. The money that is used to support the students in South Africa is enough to pay the tuition fees for all the students in Zimbabwe. Therefore, it is important for the powers that be to consider funding students in local universities.
“By so doing, the government will show that it has confidence in its universities here in Zimbabwe. As it is now, we believe that the government thinks there are better universities in South Africa than in Zimbabwe and this is not acceptable.”
The Presidential Scholarship Programme was founded in 1995 to give academically-gifted students from poor families a chance to study in South African universities.
President Robert Mugabe is the patron of the fund.
The programme drew students from each of the country’s 10 provinces.
Due to failure by government to pay tuition and provide welfare allowances to the students in the neighbouring country, some of the students have been reportedly forced into prostitution and drug dealing to earn a living.
Reports from South Africa indicate that some institutions told the students last December not to return if their debts were not settled, but Mushowe said government has negotiated with the universities to pay in instalments.
Zimbabwe has 450 students at the University of Johannesburg, 100 students at Wits University, while an undisclosed number of beneficiaries are at other universities such as Fort Hare, Monash and University of KwaZulu Natal, among other institutions.