EDITOR’S COMMENT: No one was denied a degree by poverty


the herald

Jthere has been much criticism of the new fees charged by zimbabwean state universities and even some attempts to hijack the debate on the subject for political purposes, but the position is that university fees in zimbabwe are the cheapest in the area and that there is an installation loan available.

The two essential points that must be accepted are, firstly, that the fees must be sufficient not only to attract and retain high-level staff, but also to maintain and improve the facilities and, secondly, that no prospective student should being forced to miss a university education because of poverty.

Zimbabwe is already pumping big money into the public education sector, from early learning classes to postgraduate university education. This absorbs more than 6% of the gross national product and accounts for 17% of all government expenditure.

That is to say, education in the public sector accounts for more than 6% of the total wealth produced each year in the country, and another good share goes to the private sector, so Zimbabweans are willing to spend money on education. When it comes to the government’s budget, that 17% of state spending means that 17 cents of every dollar paid in taxes goes directly to the two ministries of education, so no one can accuse the government of starving education.

Although these percentages are higher than the targets set by Unesco for countries wishing to advance their education sector, Zimbabwe is doing better on both counts, as noted by President Mnangagwa in his address to the high-level summit. level on education transformation at the United Nations General Assembly.

Yet the amount we spend on taxes is not enough, and if we want good universities and high quality education, more is needed. At the university level, the state sector has changed from one at independence to one in each province, although the specializations of these universities make them all national rather than provincial.

But even the older ones need more facilities, more equipment and more student accommodation and the newer ones often still borrow buildings for essential services.

As President Mnangagwa noted over the weekend, the vice-chancellors had argued that the previous fees did little to maintain the lowest level of service, and certainly could not keep up with the increasing demands. struggling universities, even with the government pushing to dramatically increase its support.

Costs therefore had to increase. The levels are still below those of Zambia and Botswana, and less than half those of South Africa, countries like Zimbabwe that see significant support for their state universities in their national budgets. Zimbabwe’s charges therefore cannot be said to be unreasonable. On the contrary, they are rather low by regional standards.

We must remember that not all degrees are equal. A degree is only as good as the university that awards it, and the university is only as good as those it brings for research and teaching, the staff to student ratio and the facilities it provides for staff and students. students. Considering efficient administration and zero waste, these requirements come down to money. The more there are, the better the university.

The second factor is equally important, namely that the income of the student’s family should not be a determining factor as to whether the person can go to university. If accepted, they should be able to leave.

The government reintroduced the loan scheme two years ago, where loans are guaranteed by the government. What surprised President Mnangagwa was that “only” 10,000 students had applied for and obtained such loans. He thought many more would have accepted the offer.

But this implies that there is no special loan rationing. If more students need loans, more can be granted. Of course, loans have to be repaid at some point, but with Zimbabwe’s state university fees still low in the region, this does not pose a major burden to the prospective graduate. Compared to the United States, where a university education can be very expensive, the total required for a Zimbabwean degree is an affordable fraction of the first few years of salary.

The president was also keen for the private sector to sponsor more students and he made it clear that he had no problem with sponsors tying up the students they supported.

He even encouraged companies to enter noting that the Education 5.0 which now dominates the system produces graduates who would be useful to companies in their first year of work, and do not require a total retraining before the degree can be translated into the practice. Required Skills.

In the past, some students have objected to linking. It’s hard to understand. In many disciplines, a new graduate must work for a few years anyway before being considered even a full junior member of a profession.

Medical graduates must work in a major hospital under the supervision of a full professional for two years. The Zimbabwe Institution of Engineers and the Zimbabwe Law Society require two years of work under the direction of a fully qualified engineer or lawyer, and satisfactory work at that, before letting the new graduate become a full professional. Accounting has similar requirements.

Some courses even require an internship during the studies, so that the student acquires the practical experience necessary to accompany the theory. So, since a graduate has to work for someone reputable after graduation, he might as well be the sponsor who paid his fees as anyone else.

The best jobs, and the highest positions, go to those who have both a degree and the experience and proven skill with that experience. You can’t just drop out of college and get the best jobs until you prove you can do as well as you can learn and pass the exams. You need both.

A decent employer doesn’t really gain or lose financially through sponsorship. What they spend, and then what they pay during the years of servitude, should allow them to break even. Where they win is being able to pre-determine labor needs, train their elected officials through college, internships, and the first few years of practical experience so that they later have professional staff they know intimately and can trust.

Where the Second Republic makes sense is in recognizing that students should make a realistic contribution to their higher education, although government grants to universities are not insignificant, but has put in place mechanisms for students can be helped with loans, and hopefully with more sponsorship.

The double ensures that the degree is good and the financial support ensures that no one is denied a degree because their family is not wealthy.

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