PRESIDENT Mnangagwa has bemoaned the low uptake of Government facilitated loans by students at the country’s tertiary institutions amid reports that only 10 000 students have benefited so far despite the facility being open to all.
Writing in his weekly column in this paper, the President, who is the Chancellor of all State Universities challenged learners to take advantage of the facility to further their education and cushion families from the payments. Last week various tertiary institutions in the country announced new fees structures.
“Following this decision on fees by governing University Councils, I, as Chancellor of all State universities, requested university authorities to furnish me with a comparative schedule for fees charged by similar institutions in our region and beyond. After receiving and examining the schedule, it has become quite apparent that the old fees we charged were untenable, while the new fees which our universities now propose are not just reasonable, but still either below or within range of what their peers in the region are charging. With the exception of universities of Namibia and Malawi, fees now being levied by most of our universities are at par or below those obtaining at other universities in our Sadc region,” said President Mnangagwa.
President Mnangagwa said universities were open to flexible terms to allow students to repay the loans once they acquire them.
“I, however, remain concerned that the loan facility which Government guarantees, and which Government administers through banks, is not being taken full advantage of by our students. Only about 10 000 students have benefited so far, a remarkably small number in relation to our student population. We set up that facility for students to take full advantage of. I am also told that universities do accommodate flexible payment plans to allow families to spread the financial burden of procuring university education,” he added.
He said a more sustainable way of looking at the new fees as agreed to by University Councils is measuring them against costs of dispensing quality tertiary education under circumstances obtaining in the country.
“This means that even with the new, relatively higher fees, Government still has to move in with some subsidies. We thus are not privatising higher education, in which case the fees would have been based on a cost-plus formulae, which we all know would make the service unaffordable to many eligible students and their sponsoring families,” said President Mnangagwa. He called on captains of industry and commerce to adopt and sponsor as many students as they can accommodate on their budgets, adding that it should be more appealing now that Education 5.0 is closely aligned to the requirements of places of real employment.
President Mnangagwa said he has also directed that all State universities look at ways of making the financial burden of securing higher education bearable as there are many avenues and mechanisms which can be invoked and pursued to ensure gifted students from poor backgrounds are assisted and not disadvantaged.
“It is my wish as Chancellor and as the President of the country to ensure we leave no student behind,” he stressed.