Buhera South legislator Joseph Chinotimba yesterday quizzed Higher and Tertiary Education Minister Amon Murwira whether he took people’s salaries into consideration before pegging school fees for government-owned universities and colleges.
The government pegged tuition for humanities at $3500; engineering and sciences at $4000 and life sciences which is veterinary science as well as medical sciences at $5000.
These fees according to the government are the minimum which is needed to make the universities and colleges continue running their operations.
However, speaking in the National Assembly during Question and Answer Session, Honourable Chinotimba said the tuition fees structure does not match the salaries that people are getting at the moment.
“The poverty datum line in Zimbabwe went up but wages for people who have children that have enrolled at universities have not. The money that he is talking about, whether the Government will assist or not, we have more than 20 thousand students who will be going to university.
“Government assistance is questionable because, in rural areas, the communities are in need of food. The timing for the increase in university fees is not correct. They should increase fees after the harvest.
“My question is, did you ever consider the salaries that people are getting? We are representatives of the workers. As we stand for someone who is gainfully employed; to get $800 and is expected to pay $5 000 is not practical,” he said.
In his response, Minister Murwira said they had taken the salaries into account adding that it was the reason why a government-backed education loan was introduced.
“We took into consideration the general income of our parents. That is why for the first time, since the late 90s, we have now introduced a Government-backed loan scheme. That alone is evidence that we know the levels of income of this country, again, because we are supporting the bills of the universities.
“For the first time, this Parliament voted for ZW$6 million for operation for each university and ZW$10 million for new universities. This is a recognition that universities need to be supported. I would, however, be very happy if this august House gives me ZW$30 billion, then we will be able to do that.
“However, it is upon this House, the budget that we were given for universities is ZW$1.4 billion, which is according to what the country can afford and the fees are simply supplementing that.
“So, we took into consideration the economic conditions and our procedure for determining fees involves committees at universities. The actual figures that we were given as a Ministry before we discussed on the 10th of January were way higher than what we are talking about right now. So, we played our moderation role, but the most important thing is, the state of any country is determined by the state of its higher and tertiary education system,” he said.
Minister Murwira added that if we need to develop the country then there is a need to support the Higher and Tertiary Education system which he said will cost money.
He, however, applauded Parliament for voting for a bigger budget for the ministry in the 2020 National Budget.
“I am happy that this august House voted for a better budget than last year for my Ministry and we have taken into consideration the money that we were given and that which is earned. However, the issue basically is; the fees that we are charging, if you could see that we disconnected our fees from a US$ currency completely, they are completely disconnected.
“In actual fact, if we were thinking of US$, we are now paying much less, US$190. So, the issue is, the increase idea cannot be entertained because it is not true. We just determined a new level based on the Zimbabwean dollar.
“Mr Speaker Sir, we need to support our higher and tertiary education and we cannot politick with higher and tertiary education. If we politick with it we are politicking with our future. Higher education has to be supported with fees and has to be supported by Parliament. I thank you,”