Students at the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) yesterday boycotted lectures in a protest that saw the institution rescinding last week’s decision to increase tuition fees by more than 100 percent.
The students started mobilising each other using social media platforms demanding that the university reverts to last semester’s fee structure.
Those who spoke to Chronicle said they were shocked last week to learn that the university was now demanding up to US$770 from around US$320 for under graduate programmes, and the money was said to be payable in local currency at the prevailing official exchange rate.
At about 8AM yesterday, students forcibly closed one of the entrances at Nust in a bid to stop anyone from accessing the university. The NUST Students’ Representative council (SRC) led the protest and sent around fliers detailing their grievances and why lectures should be aborted. When a Chronicle news crew arrived at the university, SRC members were standing by the pedestrian gate turning away students. The institution called the anti-riot police who quickly dispersed the students.
While some SRC members were urging students to boycott lectures, the other members were said to be involved in meeting with Nust administrators.
Later on, in a video addressed to students circulating on social media platforms, Nust SRC president Muziwenkosi Moyo said they had forced the university to drop the new fees structure.
“We have won. The draconian fees have been reduced. We would love to thank you all who stood in solidarity with us in the stay away,” he said.
In a press statement which was released later in the day, Moyo said the university had pegged the fees in US dollar to preserve its value.
He said students could however pay the fees using local currency.
“We want to update you on the recent developments concerning the call by the SRC for students to stay away from university premises. After a meeting with university management, we are pleased to announce that we have reached favourable resolutions that are pro-student,” he said.
“We are happy to inform you that the recently hiked fees of US$720 have been revoked and removed from your portals. Students will now continue to pay the preset ZWL fees structure adopted in September 2022.”
Moyo encouraged students to ensure that they are registered.
He said it is important for university fees to be affordable so that no one is deprived of the opportunity to learn.
Asked via written questions why the university had reversed the decision to increase fees, Nust director of communication and marketing Mr Thabani Mpofu did not provide any answers but said the matter had been resolved and students were back in lectures.
“The situation on campus is back to normal,” said Mr Mpofu.
He said students were sent notices to their portals indicating varying fee increases, depending on one’s faculty.
Students in the faculty of medicine were the hardest hit as the fee went from around US$320 to US$770.
In the faculty of sciences and engineering the fees was now pegged at US$720.
Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development Permanent Secretary Professor Fanuel Tagwira said following morning disturbances at Nust, he engaged the university to understand the source of the problem.
He said the university told him that the fees had been increased through an error.
“The university told me no fees changes had been made. They said someone punched in the wrong numbers to students’ portals, however it has now been rectified,” said Prof Tagwira.
Bulawayo police spokesperson Insp Abednico Ncube said his office had not received the report regarding the incident that resulted in police being called to Nust to restore order.-state media