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UZ students protest over ‘irrational, unlawful’ fees hike, get support from Biti

University of Zimbabwe (UZ) students led by Allan Chipoyi, president of the Students Representative Council (SRC) on Monday peacefully protested an astronomical increase in fees.

This comes after UZ pegged fees at between ZWL500,000 and ZWL1 million for the August 2022/23 semester, way beyond the reach of many in a country with high unemployment and skyrocketing inflation.

The protest ended after the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) deployed its Support Unit. Scores of students were arrested and detained at Avondale Police Station.

Main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) vice president Tendai Biti supported the students’ cause arguing the shock fees increase was unjustifiable given the institution had been given a lot of money by the State.

“The massive tuition fee increases of over 700% at the University of Zimbabwe are irrational and unlawful. Asking parents to fork out US$1300 per semester for tuition alone is ridiculous.

“More so when UZ received an additional ZWL4.5 billion in the Supplementary Budget to take the total to ZWL7.9 billion,” Biti said.

Biti further blamed the ruling Zanu-PF party for orchestrating the fees hike.

“Education is a basic human right protected by section 88 of the Constitution. It is at the core of the right to human dignity. Zanu-PF actions at UZ are a blatant assault on the right to education.

“They betray the absence of an ideology or inner morality guiding regime. Shocking bankruptcy,” he said.

Pro-democracy activist Makomborero Haruzivishe also pushed the hashtag #FeesMustFall.

“UZ students’ #FeesMustFall is a fight for uneducated youths, unemployed graduates, underpaid workers and an aspiration to produce young societal, economic, developmental and political leaders who will restore Zimbabwe’s glory. It’s a fight that must be completed by Registering to vote,” he said.

CCC spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere who is also a former UZ student said:

“If you’re not outraged by the UZ fees hike, you’re not paying attention. Once upon a time, UZ education was free. Now, unemployed parents living in extreme poverty are asked to pay half a million dollars in fees. Is affordable, quality education too much to ask? #FeesMustFall”

Government spokesperson Nick Mangwana said the university had several initiatives to support students not affording to pay fees.

“There are students whose domestic situations are such that they may struggle to pay fees. Universities run different support schemes to assist these students meet their fees. Some unis like the UZ have these schemes;
1- Work Study Programs
2- Fees Payment Plans
3- Student Loans,” he said.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition slammed the police for thwarting the students’ peaceful demonstration.

“The Coalition implores the police to respect the students’ rights to demonstrate, and it would be an injustice if the law enforcement agents were to interfere or disrupt the students who are peacefully exercising their right to demonstrate.

“To the management at the UZ and government, we call for a downward review of the fees, and if at all, we would like to see a situation where all students can learn for free, as this will give everyone regardless of their social status access to education,” the NGO coalition said in a statement.

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