'Chinamasa should have budgeted for grants'

HARARE - Zimbabwe National Students’ Union (Zinasu) has slammed Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa’s 2017 national budget saying it was out of touch with students’ needs.

The spending plan proposed to allocate $200.9 million for Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development, with $172,591 million allocated for remuneration of staff, inclusive of employees of State universities.

Of the overall budget appropriation, $23,2 million was appropriated towards the completion of ongoing construction works to alleviate shortage of institutional accommodation.

Chinamasa said government will also continue to pursue initiatives for mobilising additional financial resources for the construction of halls of residence through joint ventures and issuance of infrastructure bonds.

“In as far as tertiary students are concerned, Chinamasa’s 2017 budget presentation was a damp squib,” Zinasu spokesperson Zivai Mhetu said yesterday.

“You cannot focus on allocating money to infrastructure development and accommodation alone when you have not put in place mechanisms which ensure that students have money to pay fees.

“Who is going to use that accommodation and infrastructure when students are dropping out en masse? The way things are, when colleges open next semester, it is very possible that thousands of students will not be able to continue with their studies due to lack of money to pay fees.

“The majority of parents who pay fees for the student are either unemployed due to company closures or earn way below the poverty datum line courtesy of the harsh economic environment that is prevailing in the country.”

The budget statement, according to Zinasu, falls short of proposing a viable solution to the biggest challenge students are grappling with — lack of money to pay fees.

Earlier this year, Zinasu claimed that over 12 000 students dropped out of school in the first quarter of the year alone due to financial challenges.

However, Chinamasa’s 2017 budget presentation, which the union expected to provide a solution to this problem, did not, Mhetu said.

Mhetu said there was urgent need for the government to either re-introduce the grants and loans scheme which the government abandoned in 2006, or revive the cadetship scheme which is now dysfunctional.

The grants and loans scheme paid full fees for students and gave them allowances to cater for other education-related expenses such as accommodation and food.

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