Sunday, 23 March 2014

Mugabe scholarship suspended

Enrolment for the Presidential Scholarship Fund has been suspended amid revelations that government is battling to pay tuition fees and cater for the welfare of students living in South Africa.
Chris Mushowe, head of President Robert Mugabe's scholarship programme, said the government owes South African universities over $1 million in tuition and is failing to provide for the welfare of students.

"I will be travelling to South Africa next week to negotiate with their landlords (students landlords) and sign commitment documents so that we guarantee their accommodation as well as inspect the places where these students are staying," Mushowe, who is also minister for Manicaland province, said in Harare Thursday.

"Because of lack of funding, we have stopped taking students until we are done with the current lot because we don't have enough funding for the project. This is largely because since 2010 we did not receive enough funding from treasury as the then minister of Finance, Tendai Biti, did not believe in the project. In 2010, he allocated $3 million, which could not cater for the 15 universities accommodating students Africa. In 2011, he allocated $2 million and in 2012 he allocated $1 million which was far from the budgeted expenditure per annum."

Mushowe said last year well wishers had to come to the rescue of the students under the scholarship after they were forced out of universities due to non-payment of tuition.
Mugabe scholarship suspended
Some universities were still waiting to be paid last year's fees after the fund failed to settle its debt in full, while some students were alleged to be surviving on a poor and unhealthy diet as they have not receive their stipend and have no money for food.

"Yes, at times we fail to give them pocket money, but text books, or their needs and demands, but none has ever gone to sleep in a tavern because they have no accommodation, we try all our best to ensure that they have desert accommodation," Mushowe said

The Presidential Scholarship Programme was founded in 1995 to give academically gifted students from poor families a chance to study at university at South African universities.

Mugabe is the patron of the fund and the programme drew students from each district from the country's 10 provinces each year.

Due to failure by government to pay tuition and provide welfare allowances to the students in the neighbouring country, some of the students have been forced to resort to prostitution and drug dealing to earn a living.

Reports from South Africa indicated that some institutions told the students in December not to return if their debts were not settled, but Mushowe said government has negotiated with the universities to pay in installments.

"Because of our long standing relationship with these universities, we were able to negotiate with them for a payment plan and we are going to pay, that is the reason why we are not taking anyone until we finish with this batch," he said.

Last year, according to sources from South Africa, students only received R900 for the whole year. They also did not receive their transport fares to return home for the June holidays.

Zimbabwe has 450 students at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), 100 students at Wits University, while an undisclosed number of beneficiaries at other universities such as Fort Hare, Monash and KwaZulu Natal, among other institutions.

Meanwhile, KwaZulu Natal University has launched a doctorate degree programme for Zimbabweans who would wish to further their studies without relocating to South Africa.

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