UZ backs down on fees hike

HARARE - University of Zimbabwe (UZ) administration has put on hold a 35 percent fees hike it had imposed on College of Health Sciences students.

Students had expressed outrage in response to a January 4  directive — signed by the university’s vice chancellor Levi Nyagura — that fees for medicine undergraduates be increased to $1 043 from $773.

They argued that the move was “inconsiderate” and “ill-timed”.

College of Health Sciences dean, Midion Chidzonga, referred questions to the director of information, who was said to be on leave.

While university authorities were unreachable for comment, UZ Student Representative Council (SRC) spokesperson Tafadzwa Chabata said Nyagura had agreed to reverse the new fees regime immediately.

“After thorough negotiations between the SRC and the vice chancellor, the admin was left with no option but to put the hike on hold,” he said.

“The SRC . . . stood firm and made it clear to the vice chancellor that the UZ administration always shows lack of remorse and consideration for poor students who are struggling to pay fees,” Chabata said.

“Yes, it’s 2017, a new year but we are entering it with the same problems and burdens that haunted us in 2016. The economic situation of the country is deteriorating at unprecedented levels but it was mind-boggling to us when we realised that the UZ administration had alarmingly raised fees for Medical and Veterinary College students.

“The administration, together with the SRC, will look for sponsorships rather than impose fees hikes on students who are already affected by an economic crisis.”

Student representative bodies have reported massive drop-out 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.

The university is expected to open for its second semester for the 2016/2017 academic year next month.

“The decision was not only substantively wrong but also procedurally unacceptable. The SRC was put in place to stand as a recognised voice in decisions that affect students,” Chabata said.

“It was, however, surprising to note that the administration had proceeded to raise fees without consulting the SRC.

“The vice chancellor repented from issuing out any university policy without consulting the SRC and promised that this will never happen again.”

Meanwhile, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa has said the freezing of fees and charges was in line with the social contract launched by President Robert Mugabe on February 26, 2010.

“Any increase in prices will have to be justified, and considered on its merits . . .

“This is necessary to allow for economic recovery as such other recent reform measures by government to recover the economy take effect,” he said in his 2017 national budget.

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