Zim students in Russia sleep at rail stations

Zimbabwean students on government scholarships to Russia are sleeping in the open at railway stations after being removed from university accommodation over failure to meet their financial obligations.

This was revealed by the Permanent Secretary for Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology, Washington Mbizvo, when he appeared before a parliamentary committee on Monday.

Because of the situation, said Mbizvo, Zimbabwe's Ambassador to Russia, Boniface Chidyausiku, had to raise the red flag to government.

Zimbabwean students in Russia are studying various science courses including medicine.

In reaction to the Russia crisis, treasury released $54, 000 to help ease the problem.

Of the $12 million sought by the ministry in the 2014 national budget only $8 million was allocated by the finance ministry but nothing has been disbursed to date.

It was highlighted that if ever treasury was to release the allocated

$8 million, all would be channelled towards outstanding debts.

For the past six years, the higher education ministry has been accruing debts due to government incapacity to meet its obligations.

As a result, the ministry owed educational institutions over $62 million in unpaid tuition and boarding fees.

"If government fails to fund the education sector which should breed human capital, then the economic blueprint, Zim Asset, would be in danger," Mbizvo warned.

Besides the Russia problem, Mbizvo said, the trend was widespread and all Zimbabwe students on government funded scholarships were experiencing funding problems.

The students $3, 000 to $4, 000 per year to meet their needs but Zimbabwe can only afford a paltry $500 per student each every two years, parliament heard.

Government was also failing to disburse $63 million due to the ministry since 2009.

Mbizvo expressed fears that should government fail to address the situation, instability and unrests would result at local institutions of higher learning.

Local colleges and universities are subsidising accommodation and transport expenses through income generating projects such as farming.

Zimbabwe runs various types of scholarships that include the presidential fund, government sponsored initiatives and by bilateral Zimbabwe local universities charge $1, 400 per semester for both tuition and accommodation.

For non residents, the arts department charges $300, for engineering fees are at $350 while the medicine and science faculties charge $450 and $400 per semester respectively.

Prohibitive fees have led to some colleges offering piece jobs to poor students, to enable them meet some basic needs.

Reports and confessions were bound that struggling female students had resorted to prostitution in order to make ends meet.

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