Monday, 1 July 2019

MINISTER SAYS NO TO UNI FEE INCREASES


The Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Development, Professor Amon Murwira has said that there will be no fees increases for all universities and other tertiary institutions in the country until the next national budget because austerity measures are for everyone.

Prof Murwira told The Mirror in an interview this week that the same parents who are supposed to pay fees for children at tertiary institutions have not received salary increases at their different workplaces and it was therefore, ironic that they should be expected to pay higher school fees.

He called upon tertiary institutions to think outside the box, be innovative and create other sources of income.

He said to increase tuition fees is to increase the suffering of guardians and parents and he added that austerity measures must be felt across the board.
Institutions of higher learning must be the stabilizing force during the implementation of austerity measures, he said.

“Institutions of higher learning are the think tanks of the country and they must not panic during difficult times instead they should act as stabilising forces by dampening inflation. Our minds must be stable not inflationary because by increasing tuition fees we are contributing to inflation, something that we should be fighting.

“If it is austerity, let it be austerity for everyone, not a situation where others enjoy at the expense of others,” said Prof Murwira.

He added that reviews will only be done at year end in accordance with the budget which runs for 12 months and there is no guarantee that there will be upwards reviews.
The tuition fees for Government run universities is pegged at an average of $600 and tertiary institutions will only be allowed to increase fees on food which the universities have no control over.

“The Ministry has always supported institutions by giving them salary and operational grants. Universities have been encouraged to be innovative in order to increase their revenue base and supplement the Government grant. The Ministry fully supports innovations in universities and has already provided funds for the construction and equipment of innovations hubs and laboratories,” Prof Murwira added.

University vice chancellors recently met Prof Murwira and told him of their dire situations because of the freeze on fees increases. They said university could no longer afford basic functions like visiting students on attachment, providing exam material and repairing 
equipment because at RTGS$600 a semester  the fees had at that time fallen to US$82.

Several students and parents who spoke to The Mirror hailed the Minister’s decision and said many students had dropped out of school and enrolments at tertiary institutions were declining even without the fees increases.

“If you ask the universities and colleges, they will tell you that enrolments have gone down because of the difficult economic conditions. To increase tuition will be to make the situation much worse for parents and students,” said Kudakwashe Dzoro.

Murwira said tertiary institutions must not always be allowed to fall back on the easy solution of pushing economic difficulties on guardians. He said such a culture has created a dependent syndrome on the institutions where all they do is collect money without adding their minds to the processes of finding solutions to the problems facing this country.

Veteran educationist, Erison Huruva applauded the Minister for the move but was quick say that the educational institutions must be given the latitude to pursue their goals without any interference from the parent Ministry.

“As long as they are given the freedom to operate as they want, there is no harm in freezing the tuition fee increases because these institutions can use the fees to generate income for their activities,” said Huruva.

Lawyer and academic Dr James Tsabora said the policy of innovativeness is artificial as the universities have only started implementing it.

“I think to keep the university fees at $600 per semester is too artificial because that amount can’t even buy an electric iron. The innovativeness policy must be allowed to run for at least 10 years and then it will begin to bear fruit. The freeze must be reviewed in response to the situation on the ground,” said Tsabora. Masvingo Mirror

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