Local State universities face a torrid time in 2017 due to paltry budgetary allocations, Parliament was told early this week.
By VENERANDA LANGA
Acting Higher and Tertiary Education ministry secretary, John Dhewa said this before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, chaired by Peter Mataruse, while explaining the department’s $200 million allocation for 2017.
Dhewa said the reduction in the allocation for universities from $221m to $125m in 2017 would have far-reaching consequences with the amount expected to sustain the institutions for six months.
“We thought it was a mistake and we are not aware why they cut it to $125m, as this will largely affect salaries for lecturers.
“We foresee problems if we fail to pay university staff, it will be catastrophic and it will affect the peace and stability at universities,” he warned.
Dhewa said the government owed tertiary institutions $37m, which had been reduced from a debt of $67m three years ago after the government demanded that former students on bonding should pay up.
In 2016, only 74% of the $300m budget allocated to the Higher and Tertiary Education ministry was released by October.
Dhewa told the committee that from a bid of $3m for scholarship students’ support, only $1 million was allocated.
“Of the $1m, $500 000 will go to the Equatorial Guinea scholarship programme and the other $500 000 will go to Russia. It will affect the welfare of our students in those countries and diplomatic relations. In 2016, some of these students were spending nights at railway stations and we had to pay something,” Dhewa said.
Vice-chancellors’ representative, Eddie Mwenje (Bindura University of Science Education) told the committee all universities were owed more than $20m by students, who were failing to pay fees.
“Our university fees are subsidised and on average students in Zimbabwe pay $530 per semester.
“A reduction in salaries for lecturers will have a negative impact on the quality of education. Any attempt to also increase fees is counterproductive,” he said, saying at least 5% of students drop out due to failure to pay fees.
There were no allocations for infrastructure, the committee heard.