Thursday, 14 December 2017

MINISTER TELLS HUNGRY STUDENTS : STOP PROTESTING

GOVERNMENT has begun processing stipends for students on State scholarships in more than 12 countries, amid calls for them to stop holding protests as it taints the country’s image.

Recently, about 300 students on Government scholarship in Algeria staged a sit-in at the embassy offices demanding to be paid the stipends before they were dispersed by police.

The students said they had not been paid anything for the past 15 months.
Minister of State for Government Scholarships in the President’s Office, Dr Christopher Mushohwe, said students should always engage Government when they face challenges.
“The students out there do not seem to understand the economic situation. Instead of talking to us, they start picketing which is unfortunate and I don’t know why. That does not augur well for the image of our country,” said Dr Mushohwe.

He said most of the students who are picketing are not covered by Government scholarships.

“There are parents who appealed to Higher Education Ministry after sending their children to different countries indicating that they were no longer able to pay. The ministry I am told, was just accommodating students who would have gone on their own,” he said.

“These are the students who are giving us most problems so we will try and re-organise and make sure that when we send students they should be budgeted for because we do not have a budget for people who send their children without Government approval.”
Dr Mushohwe said because of this challenge, Government ends up sharing the budget meant for approved students with those students sent by their parents without approval hence the problems now being faced.

He said the other challenge was that he inherited a stipend backlog exacerbated by foreign currency shortages.

“It is true that students in most countries who are on the scholarships from Higher Education have not had their stipends paid due to economic difficulties.

But what I have done since I took over on the 9th of October is that we have started trying to mobilise some resources to pay students in different countries.
We understand Higher Education has not been paying stipends for the past two years,” said Dr Mushohwe.

He said they had already paid students in Russia and were processing payments for other countries.

“We have already paid our students in Russia who are quite a number. We have also made applications and payment is being processed for students in other countries.
We’ve got more than 12 countries where there are students but we are finding it difficult to process payments for students in some of the countries which are under economic sanction from the Americans like Iran and Cuba,” he said.

He said processing of all payments may take a week or two due to shortages of the US dollar.

Dr Mushohwe said his vision was to work hard to ensure that students are paid on time.
“It’s difficult because I have just inherited this problem and like I said when I took over I would not want to see students suffering. I have been running the scholarship for students in South Africa, we have not had this kind of problem even though we have economic hardships, we have been trying to ensure that they get some funding,” he said.
Minister Mushohwe paid tribute to Finance and Economic Development Minister, Cde 
Patrick Chinamasa and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe for assisting in resolving the crisis.
He said he was working on re-organising the Ministry and harmonise the Government scholarships with the STEM scholarships.

“It’s not going to be easy because the resources are not enough but we will do our best to ensure that when students are out there they at least understand,” said Dr Mushohwe. Newsday

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