Our education system in Zimbabwe was our pride, one of the best in Africa.Â
It now faces immense challenges. Public financing of the sector continues toÂ
dwindle in real terms, school fees is soaring beyond the reach of many,Â
depletion of educators and low morale owing to poor salaries for theÂ
remaining teachers have unravelled past successes in the sector.
The crisis has not spared tertiary education which saw all major StateÂ
Universities failing to open for the first semester of the 2008/2009Â
academic year which was supposed to resume last August. The medical schoolÂ
remains closed. University students that I had the opportunity to speak toÂ
were demoralised and uncertain about their future.
Many parents have resorted to sending their children abroad to study. SomeÂ
students are even resorting to study in countries like Malawi to completeÂ
their degrees – such is the state of our education.
The United Kingdom has always been a favourite destination for manyÂ
Zimbabwean students. The immigration rules have historically been veryÂ
difficult to meet. The rules required that students should show an intentionÂ
to return to their home country.
How does one show that they intend to return? This was subjective and oftenÂ
abused by entry clearance officers. Applications for Student Visas will nowÂ
be dealt with under Tier 4 of the new points-based system.
All universities and colleges that wish to recruit foreign students willÂ
require a sponsor licence and all students will require a licensed sponsor.Â
These new stricter rules are designed to protect the UK’s labour market andÂ
ensure that students and their educational establishments are legitimate andÂ
adhere to these new legal requirements.
For example, under these new rules, before students can apply to study inÂ
the UK, they will need to:
* provide their fingerprints;
* prove a track record in their studies;
* meet a minimum level of qualification;
* demonstrate that they can support themselves (and any dependants)Â
The Home Office also expects to tighten the rules even further later thisÂ
year by introducing a "sponsor management system" which will enable theÂ
licensed educational establishments to inform the UK Border Agency ifÂ
students do not enrol in their course or skip more than ten sessions. MoreÂ
information can be found HERE.
The requirement to have the educational institutions licensed will protectÂ
many foreign students who have been victims to bogus colleges. As anÂ
immigration lawyer, I have witnessed many Zimbabweans whose lives have beenÂ
ruined by these "bogus colleges". Many people arrived in the UK with theÂ
intention to pursue a course of study but fell into the hands of these bogusÂ
colleges and in addition to losing thousands of pounds, their hope ofÂ
staying lawfully in this country was destroyed.
Under the current system, entry clearance refusals can be challenged onÂ
appeal and the case heard before an independent Immigration Judge at theÂ
Asylum and Immigration Tribunal (AIT).
Under Tier 4, students will no longer have a right of appeal against anÂ
entry clearance refusal. The right of appeal is being replaced by anÂ
‘administrative review’ by an Entry Clearance Manager.
The UKBA argue that because decisions under Tier 4 will be more transparent,Â
clear-cut and based only on factual information, there is no need for anÂ
appeal system. Entry Clearance Officers (ECO’s) will not, for instance, beÂ
able to refuse on ‘intention’ to study or return home after completion ofÂ
Should this prove to be the case, students applying for a visa under Tier 4Â
could be more assured of a visa than under the current ‘hit and miss’Â
system. It is, however, very important to ensure that the initialÂ
application is submitted correctly and meets the required points under theÂ
Points Based System.
It will, hopefully, be easier for foreign students to undertake a course ofÂ
study in this country. With many Zimbabweans having settled in this country,Â
this remains a top destination for students. Hopefully, there will be a timeÂ
when individuals who have gained an education in this country and have beenÂ
exposed to the first world may be able to return and rebuild our nation.
Disclaimer: This article only provides general information and guidance onÂ
immigration law.. The specific facts that apply to your matter may make theÂ
outcome different than would be anticipated by you. The writer will notÂ
accept any liability for any claims or inconvenience as a result of the useÂ
of this information.
Rumbidzai Bvunzawabaya is a Solicitor at RBM Solicitors based in Coventry.Â
She can be contacted at [email protected] or telephone: 02476243685