|Students on cadetship sing the blues|
|Saturday, 22 September 2012 20:45|
THOUSANDS of students on cadetship in the country are singing the blues as institutions of higher learning are refusing to accept them, amid revelations that Treasury has only released US$2 million out of US$54 million that Cabinet approved for the scheme.
The students said they were learning under difficult conditions characterised by the embarrassment of being expelled from classes for non-payment of fees when the assumption is that Government has assumed the parental role of paying fees.
Higher and Tertiary Education Minister Dr Stan Mudenge said in an interview with the Sunday News yesterday that his ministry only received US$2 million from Treasury out of the US$54 million that was approved by Cabinet for the scheme.
He confirmed that students were being expelled but urged higher learning institutions in the country not to be too harsh to the students as the Government was working to put its act together.
“The issue of cadetship has become a thorn in my flesh. My ministry received US$2m only from the Ministry of Finance out of a total of US$54 million that was approved by Cabinet for the scheme and the year is almost ending.
“I presented in Cabinet on Tuesday that we need more money to be paid for the students on the cadetship scheme from the approved amount. US$2 million is just a drop in the ocean and we cannot say it did anything to help in the predicament that our students are facing. If anything it went towards paying a small fraction of the debt that the Government owed tertiary institutions in the country. We do not want our students to suffer but the non-committal attitude towards education by Finance Minister Tendai Biti is really worrying, it is greatly affecting our education system,’’ he said.
He added that they had been throwing tantrums at each other each time the topic was raised with Minister Biti arguing that he was operating with a constricted budget while he accused him of setting wrong priorities that do not value education.
“We know there is no money but the issue is what we are doing with the little that is there. I feel there is a deliberate ploy by Treasury to neglect and underfund higher education and I do not know why they would do so given that most of them are products of the same educational scheme.
“Right now thousands of our students are being expelled from classes for non-payment of fees and the figures are increasing by the day. Those that applied are in the meantime before they are admitted to the programme supposed to pay and all higher learning institutions are suffering because they are supposed to develop and maintain themselves from that money. They are no longer capable of doing that and all that should be blamed on the Treasury’s priorities,’’ he added.
Government paid a paltry US$13 000 to the National University of Science and Technology in May out of a debt that is believed to be running into millions of dollars. The amount was described by the university’s Vice Chancellor Prof Lindela Ndlovu as a drop in the ocean saying they were operating with difficulty and each time Government pays them it staggered payment.
According to figures released to this paper by the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education last year, 33 568 students were on cadetship out of a student population of 75 000. The number of students on cadetship could have almost doubled.
The development means tertiary institutions in the country must brace themselves for another financially strenuous year as Government continue struggling to meet its obligation.