Tinomuda Chakanyuka Sunday News Reporter
THE Government has been called on to regulate the expansion of tertiary institutions and ensure that adequate health care facilities are put in place before new sites are established. The call was made by National Aids Council (NAC) national youth co-ordinator Mrs Beauty Nyamwanza who said lack of adequate health care facilities at tertiary institutions was a major cause for concern.
She cited the Midlands State University (MSU) in Gweru and Great Zimbabwe University in Masvingo (GZU) as some of the universities that have opened new campuses, albeit without putting in place adequate health care facilities.
MSU recently opened a new campus in Zvishavane while GZU has several campuses in Masvingo and one in Mashava town.
Mrs Nyamwanza said the tertiary institutions had no capacity to offer proper health care services at their new campuses, putting the health of students at risk.
She said the Government should make it a policy that expanding tertiary institutions should have adequately equipped and staffed health facilities at their new sites. Students at tertiary insitutions fall under the category of the most vulnerable groups to infections like HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. NAC has since started training of HIV and Aids focal persons at tertiary institutions to provide technical guidance.
“Most universities that are expanding, setting up new campuses are doing so without putting in place health care facilities and the trend is worrying. I strongly feel that Government should regulate expansion of universities and make it a policy that these institutions have adequately equipped and staffed clinics. MSU recently opened a campus in Zvishavane and Great Zimbabwe University too but they do not have adequate health care facilities which puts the health of students at risk,” she said.
She said the health care facilities at tertiary institutions should be able to offer essential services such as voluntary HIV testing and counselling programmes and provision of antiretroviral drugs to those who are HIV positive.
“The opening of new facilities by tertiary institutions is a cause for concern. Like I said most tertiary institutions don’t have adequate health services on campus and don’t have the capacity to deal with disease outbreaks if they are to occur,” said Mrs Nyamwanza.
However, GZU director of information and public relations Mr Anderson Chipatiso refuted Mrs Nyamwanza’s assertions saying the institution had a strong health services programme. He said all the institution’s campuses were adequately equipped and manned with trained personnel.
“We have a robust health services programme. For example we have a medical centre with state-of-the-art equipment manned by qualified nurses. We have a medical centre at our Law School in town, another medical centre at the main campus, the same with our campus in Mashava. Just to demonstrate our capacity, we are opening another medical centre in Mucheke which will cater for our students as well as women and children from the community,” he said.
He added, “We are a step ahead in providing health care services for our students. In fact all our campuses have an ambulance each. So I don’t know where such assertions are coming from.”
The department of information and public relations at MSU had not responded to e-mailed questions at the time of going to print, despite several follow ups via the telephone.
However, the institution’s acting health director Mr Tafirenyika Shoko told a team of editors who were touring the institution recently that the institution had in place adequate health care facilities at both its campuses in Gweru and Zvishavane.
Mr Shoko added that the university was also providing antiretroviral drugs to its students, as well as offering voluntary HIV testing and counselling and Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMCZ) services.
He was quick to clarify that the move by the institution to provide services to students was not a response to a high HIV prevalence rate at the institution, contrary to suggestions by some Press reports.
“The provision of ARVs to students among other HIV intervention programmes is not done as a reaction to a high HIV burden as reported. We are offering 24-hour HIV testing and counselling services as well as Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMCZ) at our clinic at the main campus. In Zvishavane we have in place a small clinic which however, is well equipped and manned by qualified personnel,” he said.
MSU has the highest enrolment among all state universities in the country with about 23 000 registered at the institution.