UZ students, police clash

HARARE - University of Zimbabwe (UZ) security clashed with medical students at the UZ campus yesterday when a demonstration against fees hike turned violent.

Security replied with batons as hooded students threw missiles during the march by medical learners.

Police later pitched up and arrested some of the students, together with #ThisFlag cleric Evan Mawarire who had offered solidarity with the striking students, and detained them at Avondale Police Station.

This comes after the oldest institution of higher learning in the country increased fees for medical students from $700 per semester to $1 500.

Medical students were demanding that the university reverse its decision.

They waved placards inscribed:  “Girl child tatambura, toihurira here, #fees must fall (we have suffered, should we prostitute for fees?); “No to fees hike”; “Asifuni bumbulu (we don’t want nonsense)”; “Fees ngaidzike (fees should go down).”  

In a memo signed by the UZ registrar, Sergeant Chevo, the hike had been approved by vice chancellor Levi Nyagura.

“The vice chancellor met the student executive council on June 15, 2017 and discussed among other things, the issue of academic fees for medical students.

“It was clearly pointed out that the medical students pay $450 per semester of 15 weeks.

In this regard, for third year medical students’ 30 week semester, they should pay $900.

“The vice chancellor agreed that the medical students could apply for a payment plan and pay the fees while they attend lectures,” the memo read.

In a video update after his arrest, Mawarire said he was arrested after addressing the students and praying with them at the campus.

“I did nothing wrong. I got there and I encouraged them and we prayed together. Now I have been arrested because I prayed with them,” the cleric said.

In January, the UZ reversed a decision to increase the fees by 35 percent from $773 to $1 043 after students had protested the move.

This comes as students representative unions and organisations have reported massive dropout rates at universities caused by failure to pay fees, with the Zimbabwe National Students’ Union (Zinasu), claiming that  at least 12 000 students dropped out of higher learning institutions in the first quarter of 2016 alone.

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