By Daniel Chigundu
GOVERNMENT says it is not able to give students in institutions of higher learning students-grants, but is working on modalities of giving them loans instead.
Students through their representative bodies such as Zinasu and Zicosu have been lobbying government for some time to consider restoring students-grants to help poor students pay their school fees and to meet their living expenses while learning.
Many students mainly from poor backgrounds have struggled to meet education expenses resulting in many of them dropping out or deferring their studies until such a time when they find money.
Students-grants were instrumental in helping most students from poor backgrounds and rural areas pay their college and university fees during the early 80s and late 90s before it was scrapped.
Answering a question in Parliament from Honourable Emma Muzondiwa, who wanted to know government plans with regards to the grants, Higher and Tertiary Education Deputy Minister Godfrey Gandawa said government has no financial leg-room to give grants.
“At the moment government has fiscal constraints and we can, therefore, not reinstate the granting of grants to the education sector students. In conjunction with the Reserve Bank, we are looking at ways to come up with loans but we cannot disburse grants at the moment.
“We are looking forward to disbursing loans. The RBZ has already advertised for financiers that can give such loans at low premiums so that students can be able to pay for their tuition and accommodation fees,” he said.
Musikavanhu legislator Honourable Prosper Mutseyami raised supplementary question seeking clarification from the deputy minister on how the students would repay the loans after getting their degrees as government has failed to create the promised 2.2 million jobs.
Deputy Minister Gandawa responded that modalities of the loan facility are being worked out so that they become user friendly.
“As I have earlier on said, the RBZ and the Ministry of Finance are working on the modalities so that we can have discussions with financiers so that the students can be assisted in that regard at tertiary institutions and colleges. This is still under consideration.
“Government and financiers are going to come up with an agreement that will be user friendly to the students upon their attaining their degrees and once they attain employment. The modalities are going to be worked out and it is work in progress.
“The RBZ advertised two days ago. I take his points he has given us and the ideas to look into the situation and how best we assist them. We accept the Honourable Member’s contribution so that it becomes easier for both the country and our students,” said the Deputy Minister.
It will be however interesting to see how students will be able to repay the loans as most of them are failing to find jobs after their education as most companies are closing shop or scaling down on operations due to hard operating environment.
Accord to Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa only 500 000 people are formally employed out of the 13 million Zimbabwean population and of that number government accounts for about 250 000 workers.
Zimbabwe is said to have about 80 to 90 percent unemployment rate and the most affected are the youth who are also 70 percent of the country’s population.
Most Zimbabweans are currently involved in the informal sector doing self-help or survivalist ventures were they get anything between US$100 to US$250 per month.
According to the FinScope Micro Small to Medium Enterprise (MSME) 2012 Zimbabwe Survey, there are about 3.5 million SMEs operating in various sectors of the economy.
These SMEs are said to be accounting for about 70 percent of employment in the country.
By Daniel Chigundu