HIGHER and Tertiary Education minister, Amon Murwira has refused to approve proposed fee hikes by local universities until the obtaining Covid-19 pressures have eased.
This comes after government has secured five high tech servers to catalyse online learning across the country’s learning institutions.
The raging Covid-19 pandemic has infected tens of thousands and killed hundreds of locals since the first case was confirmed last March.
Coupled with that, the pandemic has also pushed thousands out of employment while those still employed have seen their employers scale down service and production in line with the country’s measures to contain the spread of the disease.
As a result, minister Murwira said no fees hikes have been approved as yet until such a time when the economic conditions have relatively improved.
Said the minister, “The fees structures we are maintaining at universities are even lower than those being charged by most boarding schools in the country. Three factors; affordability, reasonability and sustainability will determine fees hikes.”
Murwira said the country’s universities were not there to generate profits insisting the current fees structures must be maintained.
On average, an undergraduate university student currently pays an equivalent of around US$200 which is far below regional averages of US$2 500 per year.
Added the minister, “We also bought five high tech servers last year in a bid to achieve online learning for our institutions. These will be shared and as the year progresses, we are expecting to add five more to bring stability to our institutions.”
Apart from this, Murwira said all state institutions have been tasked to develop their own ICT learning systems in order to lessen the fees burden on the students if such systems are to be purchased.
“To support the efforts, all the universities have been directed to set aside an average budget $25 million which will go towards development and enhancement of ICT systems. We are going into the new reality of online learning hence the need to move with required speed,” he said.
He said apart from practical courses, all learning must nolonger be conducted in the traditional face-to-face interaction on campus.