The high fees have also exposed female students to sexual predators who take advantage while other students had either dropped out or had deferred their studies.
This was said by students from several different universities and polytechnic colleges across the country including teaching trade union representatives while giving oral evidence before Parliament’s portfolio committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology Development, Innovation and Tertiary Education.
The committee chaired by Hwange Central MP Mr Daniel Molokele (MDC Alliance) wanted to know the impact of recent fees hike in tertiary institutions.
Government, through Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation Science and Technology Development Minister Prof Amon Murwira pegged the fees at between $3 500 and $5 000 per semester depending on one’s programme arguing that there was need to balance the desire for quality education and affordability.
In their evidence, the students said there was need for the Government to reduce the fees and pegged at salaries that subsisted among civil servants.
They said loans that were introduced by the Government were not sustainable because they would become due for repayment after a semester or a year yet the concerned student would not have completed his or her learning.
Midlands State University Student Representative Council acting president, Mr Leon Mutakura said most students were struggling to raise the fees.
“At MSU, the fees have been pegged at $5 700, which is higher than what the Minister had gazetted. It is a threat and an assault on higher education. It is almost five times more than most parents’ salary. More than 400 students have deferred at MSU owing to the high fees,” said Mr Mutakura.
Zimbabwe National Students Union president, Mr Takudzwa Ngaidzore said Prof Murwira did not consult with relevant students but only convened a meeting after he had announced the new fee structure.
“The fee hike is not timely. Female students are being taken advantage of by ‘blessers’. Our survey showed that at least 50 percent of students had not registered,” said Mr Ngaidzore.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, Dr Takavafira Zhou said reduction in number of enrolled students owing to fees had a ripple effect on universities as they will fail to fund important sectors like research, innovation and development.
“University lecturers will be no better than high school lecturers. There is also likely to be lowering of standards of learning and teaching at universities,” said Dr Zhou.
He said the new fees would create a situation where children from richer families would access tertiary education while the poor would languish at home destined to become employees of children from richer families.
PTUZ secretary general, Mr Raymond Majongwe said the worst affected by the fee hikes were children from disabled parents.
He said while others would hustle through moonlighting or look for sex work, disabled persons had no any other alternative to raise fees.
Zimbabwe Teachers Association chief executive, Dr Sifiso Ndlovu said teachers were unable to further their studies owing to high fees.