By Nqobile Tshili
Six Lupane State University (LSU) students were yesterday arrested during a demonstration in Bulawayo where they were protesting against poor service and being excluded from lessons after failing to raise registration fees.
A group of students at the university’s Bulawayo Central Business District campus chanted songs denouncing the university’s leadership.
The students also complained about internet access as they chanted “Into oyenzayo siyayizonda” (we don’t like what you are doing).”
This prompted a quick reaction from the police, who arrested six of the students.
Bulawayo deputy police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube said the arrested students would appear in court soon.
“We have arrested six students from LSU for disorderly conduct. They will appear in court soon,” said Insp Ncube.
Responding to the incident, Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Minister Professor Amon Murwira urged university students struggling to pay fees to apply for education loans as non-payment of fees can ruin the higher and tertiary education sector.
He said his Ministry is finalising a $8 million risk fund loan facility which was included in the national budget.
This comes as Lupane State University (LSU) last week barred students who have not paid $350 registration fees from attending lectures and accessing university infrastructure.
Following the university’s decision, the students staged a demonstration at the institution disrupting lectures.
Prof Murwira said universities cannot operate without financing hence the need for students to pay the minimum required fees.
“The issue is that we don’t discourage students from writing examinations because of lack of payment of fees. But it is still very important that students try to raise the minimum that they have, otherwise we can’t run institutions based on nothing. We don’t want to destroy our education system by not doing the minimum that we can do,” said Prof Murwira.
He said those students who are struggling to pay fees should seek education loans availed by the Ministry.
Last year, the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development partnered a South African company in a $10 million student loan facility.
Prof Murwira said the Ministry can hardly assist students who are failing to pay fees and are also reluctant to apply for educational loans.
“We are really telling students to get financial help through their universities. The issue is if we have availed a facility for students to get loans, I don’t know whether we can go further.
“If a person does not want to get a loan and at the same time they don’t want to pay, then it means there is a problem with that person,” said Prof Murwira.
Students have, however, raised concerns over difficulties in accessing the loans due to surety demands by financial institutions.
The Minister said Government is aware of the challenges hence its decision to set up an $8 million risk fund which will be accessed through banks.
The risk fund, a pilot project, once finalised, will allow students to get educational loans without providing bank surety.
“The Permanent Secretary is working with one of our local banks. Our aim is to say if we put $8 million in banks maybe we can borrow ten times more than that.
“The issue has not been the availability of money in the banks, it has been access because people have been talking about payslips but not everybody has a pay slip,” said Prof Murwira. The Chronicle