Govt must restore students' grants

HARARE - Calls by senators last week on government to reinstate financial aid to assist students in the payment of educational expenses must be supported by all right-thinking Zimbabweans.

This comes after a damning report by the thematic committee on HIV and Aids which highlighted poverty as the major cause of prostitution at the country’s universities and colleges.

It must be noted at the outset that the majority of Zimbabwe’s policymakers today are beneficiaries of generous loans and grants, the bulk of which they did not pay back.

The current policy towards students’ education is tilted heavily in favour of the well-heeled. Whereas affluent parents can easily afford to send their children to expensive high schools and even universities outside the country that charge steep fees, poor families are not able to enjoy the same access to education.

These poor families are mainly drawn from rural and high density communities. Education is a basic right and should not be seen to exclude other sections of the population.

When students have access to loans and grants, it not only affords them to enjoy equal access to education but also enhances the operations of the institutions themselves as they are owed vast fees arrears by students without the capacity to pay.

On the other hand, the country’s financial constraints are known by all but the creation of a revolving fund for education would go a long way in mitigating the obtaining situation.

If students have access to loans towards their education and an effective recovery system is established, the same funds can be used to fund future students once repayment is effected.

In the past few years, Zimbabwe has been praised for its wide skills base, an obvious result of the country’s policy on education at independence. Today, many Zimbabwean professionals are working in several parts of the world, in itself testimony of an effective and non-discriminatory system of education.

The current state of affairs where some students fail to sit for examinations or access their results because they have not paid their fees cannot be allowed to continue.

Ensuring that people have equal access to education must remain government’s responsibility and those who have no capacity to pay must have access to safety nets provided by the State in the form of loans and grants.

The current policy seems to disenfranchise students from poor backgrounds and must be revisited now, otherwise this issue of prostitution in colleges and universities may not end any time soon.

 

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