DISCLOSURES by Harare West MP Jessie Majome (MDC-T) in Parliament last week that hordes of Zimbabwean students on foreign scholarships were starving due to government’s failure to release their $3 000 yearly stipends made far disturbing and shocking reading.
This should serve as a reminder to our government that it should not bite more than it can chew. What’s the point of sending hundreds of students to foreign universities on government scholarship when we don’t have adequate financial support for their upkeep?
How do we, as a nation, expect such students to survive given that most of them, we are made to believe, are from poor backgrounds.
Such conditions naturally forces desperate students to engage in such nefarious activities as prostitution and pick-pocketing to eke a living.
It is disgraceful that a government can send young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to study far away from home and then fail to see to their upkeep.
In fact, there had been several such reports over the years and as a nation, we need to do some serious soul-searching regarding this matter.
Such a situation defeats the whole purpose of lending a hand to the students, who would have grabbed at an opportunity to take them away from their difficult life circumstances only to cast them into similar, if not worse, situations.
In fact, it may be wiser to have the students enrolled in local universities and the money they would receive be used to develop the infrastructure of our local institutions of higher learning, which have been crying out for new investments over the years.
It is also strange that while government is struggling to pay the stipends for these 460 Zimbabwean students, there are indications that another group of 60 more students are set to join their peers in South Africa on a similar scholarship programme. This will simply blow the problem into a bigger proportion and it does not make sense.
The fact that the government failed to release any stipends for the 2016/17 years, while only a quarter of the $3 000 was paid for 2015/16 simply means it has no capacity to sustain this programme and there is no reason to continue it, unless if they can find investors who are ready to buy into that vision.
It is heart breaking that the students have been forced to live like beggars through no fault of their own and this will expose to several dangers, as some have had to work at industries where they are paid $4 per day and are likely to be classified as illegal immigrants.
Some are having to borrow and failing to repay, creating an endless spiral of problems they have no capacity to resolve. This is a national shame that needs to be resolved as a matter of urgency.