By Farayi Machamire
HARARE – Zimbabwean government ministers and politicians are spreading Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) among university students, the Zimbabwe National Students Union (Zinasu) has said.
According to a research conducted by the student body together with Student Representative Councils (SRCs), government officials were doing little to lobby for the improvement of students’ welfare.
The two bodies said that the officials were preying on university students for cheap sex, as the country’s economy continues on a downward spiral.
At least 6 000 students acquired STIs in the just ended-academic calendar year, according to the two bodies.
“Government has an obligation to ensure that at least they provide for tertiary students,” said Zinasu secretary-general Makomborero Haruzivishe.
“Unfortunately, ministers and politicians are taking advantage of a system they do not want to capacitate.
“That is why we are seeing them taking advantage of vulnerable students.”
Haruzivishe said the upsurge in STIs at the country’s universities was a direct product of a collapsing economy.
Accommodation at tertiary institutions is limited, resulting in most students seeking exorbitant alternative lodgings thereby exposing themselves to exploitation.
“Most of these cases are arising because of poverty,” he said.
“Other parents were recently sacked, some of the parents of these students are teachers, they are not being paid, others are vendors and they cannot afford the high fees being charged at tertiary institutions.
“All this is leading to exploitation of students,” he said.
Whilst parents have been begging their children to bear with them and understand the hardships, some students have succumbed to pressure and are now engaging in prostitution in order to make ends meet.
Haruzivishe said according to their research, Masvingo Province had the highest number of students infected with STIs this year.
He said at one time, Masvingo Provincial Hospital opened a special department just to cater for students infected with STIs.
“In the mining town of Mashava, some students are having sex in exchange of accommodation.
“The government is not taking any action for these students to be properly housed and there is no provision for them to access food.”
Students canvassed by the Daily News yesterday disclosed that sex had become the medium of exchange for one to get a decent meal, free rides to school and free accommodation.
Surprisingly, male students also admitted engaging in homosexuality in exchange for money.
Zinasu president Alistair Pfunye said if government subsidised students’ fees, some of these social ills would be eradicated.
Students used to find reprieve in the government’s cadetship programme that paid school fees on condition that the students agreed to be bonded by the State for a stipulated period.
However, that programme has since been suspended.
“We are engaging government on ‘fees must fall’. This issue doesn’t affect an MDC student, a Zanu PF student or a Mavambo student, it affects all students,” he said.
“I am sending a message to all students. Comrades and friends, it’s high time we put away partisan cards and fight for student freedoms.
“We will engage government but if they fail to address the issue, students will make a stand.” Daily News