By Maxwell Sibanda
Zimbabwe National Students Union (Zinasu) says it is ready to meet President Robert Mugabe as announced by the Zanu PF youth league that they are planning for students interface rallies at universities.
Zinasu secretary-general Makomborero Hamandishe said they are eager to meet Mugabe, Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo and Zanu PF youth league leader Kudzai Chipanga who announced the initiative.
“We are waiting for them because we cannot let the devil run with the Bible; these are the same people who are responsible for our problems as students.
“As student our interface is with unemployment, hunger; hence we will safeguard our spaces; Chipanga should go to school first before he starts to engage us.”
He said the government has removed student grants and loans, while using their fees to do other things.
“Moyo is not being sincere when he unleashes loan sharks to us so we can borrow money from them while it is actually the responsibility of government to loan us those funds,” said Hamandishe.
He said the loan sharks are not accessible to the majority of students who are poor; hence students are being chased away from school. “The loan sharks demand collateral and where do I find it when my parents are both vendors?”
The Zinasu secretary-general said college and university students are suffering as 10 to 15 students are living and sharing a single car garage.
“It works for boys and they pay the garage owner per head. As for the girls it is even worse because most of them have entered into marriages of convenience with garden boys so that they just have somewhere to sleep.
“Sexually transmitted infections are high in our institutions as young girls sleep around to raise money for school fees.
And you see old wealthy men and Cabinet ministers picking up these innocent girls, just to exploit them for a fee. The girls have no choice otherwise they will be chased away from school for not paying the fees.”
Hamandishe said while Moyo is busy planning these interface meetings with students, all along he has been ignoring issues they raised.
“We wrote a petition to him asking why there was a hike in tuition fees when there is no inflation and that students on attachment should not pay school fees while they are away.
“He has ignored us, we want students on attachment to get paid an allowance and we wanted him to explain to us why student teachers’ loans were reduced from $300 to $100 considering the high cost of living.
“Actually as we speak it is the poor peasants who are sponsoring education in Zimbabwe while Moyo is buying bicycles and sponsoring million-man marches with students’ funds from Zimdef. As students we feel shortchanged by this government.”
He said while it is the poor parents sponsoring education, government is also in the habit of introducing various unnecessary levies.
The Zinasu official said student activism has not died and very much exists with a number of students, including him, having been arrested for speaking out.
“People tend to compare this day and the days of Arthur Mutambara’s activism, but what they forget is that there were no opposition parties at the time. Mutambara was the opposition and he could march freely and express his feelings. But during the time of the late Learnmore Jongwe when there was an opposition political party, there were mass student arrests and these were happening every week. And up until today we get often arrested.
“I have been arrested nine times so far since 2012 and suspended twice just because I was fighting for students’ rights. I should have graduated some two years ago if it were not for all these disturbances.”
Zinasu has 152 000 subscribing members drawn from colleges, universities and vocational centres and it was formed to realise democratic practises by students and that they are heard.
“Today we have to use force to get what we want or go to the courts because dialogue has failed mainly because the administrators are direct appointments by the President who is the Chancellor for all universities.”
He said that Mugabe has installed fear among students at universities and colleges which are stuffed with security agents who come to monitor.
“Due to government’s zeal to control everything they plant these agents who will monitor the brightest brains in class so that they can identify who they are.”
Hamandishe said every year 10 000 graduated students are graduating and from the research done by Zinasu’s secretariat only around 1 000 are employed.
“The rest are thrown in the streets where they abuse drugs; others go abroad but generally the majority are suffering, there is no hope.”
The students union has also embarked on voter mobilisation and they are targeting 250 000 students to register for next year’s elections from the 62 institutions of higher learning.
“We have to do something as students because this coming election is about our lives and in this first month of BVR we are targeting 70 000 students. The students have to participate in governance issues. We cannot have another five years under this leadership.” Daily News