Prof. Murwira justifies tertiary tuition fees

Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development Minister Prof Murwira

THE Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology Development, Innovation and Tertiary Education, Professor Amon Murwira, says universities in the country are working on building frameworks aimed at attracting foreign students to study in the country and bring in the much needed foreign currency.

This was revealed on Monday before Parliament’s portfolio committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology Development, Innovation and Tertiary Education which was seeking to get justification on the tertiary fees hikes from the cabinet Minister.

Minister Murwira said universities have until June 30 to make sure the internationalisation framework is up and running as it will cushion stakeholders in terms of generation of foreign currency.

“Honourable Chair the Ministry has started the study in Zimbabwe programme that is aimed at attracting foreign students from the Sub Saharan Africa and beyond who will pay fees in foreign currency and assist in recovering the deficit left by the government support and student fees,” he said.

“To this end, the Ministry has developed an internationalisation framework meant to drive the study in Zimbabwe framework and the deadline for universities is to make sure that everything is up and running by 30 June this year. It is hoped that through this initiative, institutions will earn foreign currency which they can use to procure and pay for international software’s subscriptions therefore dampening the need for fees to go up for our students.”

Professor Murwira said the current tuition fees being paid in the country are the cheapest in the region and that the lowest paid civil servant has never been able to pay the tuition fees with a month’s salary.

“The average fees per semester in the first world country is way above what is currently being charged in Zimbabwe but we might not be interested in what is happening in the developed countries but that is the idea of what we are talking about and is what is happening in the region which is showing that Zimbabwe’s fees are 30 percent of what is obtaining in the region,” he said.

“In order to answer the question of affordability, sustainability and reasonability of fees based on what the public can afford, it is important to note that in the past decade, low-income civil servants have never been able to honour the tuition fees using one month’s salary as is being published in the papers, such things are a fallacy and I will prove it.

“For instance, the bulk of the civil servants in 2017 had a salary range of between US$298 and US$350 a month and at that time universities were charging fees of up to US$1 200, so we just want to make it very clear that there was never a time when they managed to pay the fees at one go.”

Professor Murwira pleaded with legislators to talk with people in their constituencies in line with charging off-campus in foreign currency at exorbitant amounts as his ministry has little influence in that regard. He, however, said plans are underway to have all those offering off-campus accommodation registered by relevant universities to try regulate rentals.

This comes after student representatives gave evidence before the same committee that life had become unbearable following the tuition fee increase which saw the average fees pegged at ZWL$5 000.