Graduates who were assisted to pay their fees through a Government of Zimbabwe scheme called Special Cadetship have been the worst affected. Under the programme, an undergraduate, Must serve the country and be bonded for a minimum period equal to the duration of the period he/she was engaged as a Special Cadet. Furthermore, the debtor, Remits a minimum of one third of his/her salary in forex, if he/she opts to work outside the country.
To make matter wosre, each indebted graduate who signed up for the plan with the college has a cumulative debt of at least US$2 500. The amounts vary from one department to the other with the Engineering faculty being hit the worst. Graduates are being asked by the NUST administration to formally apply for their results and transcripts.
Applying for the results and transcript is in itself abnormal and tedious. What is even worse is the endless almost futile process of waiting for a response from the office of Pro-Vice Chancellor, Sam Sibanda. By refusing to hand over the transcripts, the g government is wasting resources and also contributing to joblessness. Without being able to offer jobs of any kind to defaulting students, how does Government hope to recover its dues? How will it recoup its monies if the, prospective employer will not be allowed to buy off the bonding period or part thereof for any student trained under the Cadetship Scheme?, said interim Students Representative Council (SRC) President, Charles Munjenjema.
Special Cadet Schemes have been criticised for not giving students and graduates the opportunity to work and repay their debts. The Special Cadet contract requires the prospective employer/country to remit at least one third of the indebted graduates salary to the Government of Zimbabwe. This applies for a minimum period equal to the duration of the period he/she was engaged as a Special Cadet. Under the agreement, No Special Cadet or prospective employer will be allowed to buy the bonding period or part thereof for any student trained under the Cadetship Scheme.
Learners ask how this should materialise without access to their transcripts. Students are very concerned because the Government does not have any jobs to offer. What therefore is the rationale of withholding our transcripts? said Munjenjema.
However, during public meetings with graduates, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Professor Sam Sibanda said, You must formally apply to get your transcripts and certificates. Sibanda was strongly supported by campus Dean, Dr. Lobiseni Sifobela. The latter is on record saying, albeit in a rude tone, that it was their fault they signed the Cadetship forms. You should have read the terms of the Cadetship, because a man must beware his signature, Sifobela said.
He continued, Special Cadetship was introduced amid great controversy, in 2009 after the dollarisation of the economy. Then university authorities hiked the fees astronomically, so much that almost all learners literally failed to pay for their tuition. At that time the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) even made an urgent High Court application to interdict NUST from introducing the programme. The only way out for the stranded student, whose studies had been disrupted mid-course, was to assent to the Government offer under duress. Sadly although our students mother body ZINASU was triumphant on most contested issues in court, the majority had already suffered and signed. Nothing could be reversed because the students had already bound themselves contractually, said Munjenjema.
A concerned learner and former NUST student leader, Mlungisi Dube, castigated the Special Cadet Scheme saying, It has failed to assist learners. The induced contract has a good cosy home in a rubbish bin. Government should come up with a user friendly scheme that helps both the nation and students.
When contacted for a comment, the Dean, Dr. Sifobela, could not be obtained as his cell phone was switched off.