Govt to reintroduce student grants

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THE government is set to reintroduce grants and loans in 2014 to alleviate the plight of students in the country’s tertiary institutions, Higher and Tertiary Education deputy minister Godfrey Gandawa has said.

LINDA CHINOBVA
OWN CORRESPONDENT

Speaking to Southern Eye after officiating at the commissioning of a bus for the United College of Education (UCE) in Bulawayo on Thursday, Gandawa said the decade-long crisis students have faced forking out money for fees and other charges would soon be over as the ministry would be prioritising the welfare of the students from the coming year.

“For a long time, the government has supported the students by all means. It is the economic meltdown that made the government fail to provide grants to tertiary students in the country,” Gandawa said.

“Student grants are at the top of our priorities list and come 2014 the grants should have been put in place to assist students,” he said.

He added that as soon as the funds were made available, the student grants would be restored to empower them to concentrate on their studies and stop them from engaging in some unbecoming behaviour that has become synonymous with tertiary students.

The majority of female students have been forced into prostitution to enable them to pay fees, accommodation and food, among other things, resulting in a spike of HIV and Aids in the country’s tertiary institutions.

Recently, female students from Great Zimbabwe State University revealed that they engaged in casual sexual relationships with gold panners to meet their financial obligations as they were from poor backgrounds and their parents could not afford to completely fund their studies.

Because they were so desperate for money, most students said they succumbed to the makorokoza’s demands for unprotected sex risking their lives in the process.

The grants system was scrapped about a decade ago due to the political and economic crisis and this resulted in most students countrywide struggling to survive for the duration of their courses.

Gandawa revealed that his ministry would also address the issue of accommodation, which has presented the single biggest headache to most tertiary institutions.

There is not enough accommodation on campuses and this has seen most students renting rooms in suburbs neighbouring the institutions where they are charged exorbitant rentals of up to $80 per month per room and are also subjected to uncomfortable living conditions as up to five students share a room.

“We will thrive to put funds aside for accommodation structures in tertiary institutions so that the students are not subjected to harsh living conditions that some are already facing to, as we note that a room can be occupied by five to 10 students, which is unhealthy,” he said.

Gandawa added that some landlords take advantage of students and this would push the ministry to act urgently to halt these habits.

Following the request by tertiary students that the campus residential fees be reduced to an affordable charges, Gandawa said he would engage Higher and Tertiary Education minister Olivia Muchena to see how best the issue could be addressed.

The economic crisis the country has been facing over the years has seen the government curtailing spending on education forcing tertiary institutions to halt construction projects.

However, in line with the relocation of Lupane State University to the Matabeleland North administrative capital, Gandawa said his ministry was doing all it could to ensure that adequate accommodation was built to ensure that both students and staff relocated to the university campus.

Gandawa said the ministry was pleased with the high standards of learning in the country’s tertiary institutions and would endeavour to ensure that students are also taught to be entrepreneurs who will create jobs for themselves to reduce the high unemployment figures.