With the popular belief that education is the key to success and good life, one wonders whether going to a University in Zimbabwe is still ideal given the financial constraints students undergo.
Many challenges are faced by students during and after their period of study at universities. These include struggling to pay for tuition fees through to accommodation and food or general upkeep. This then tends to force them to resort to any available means or sadly having no choice but to drop out of university altogether.
For those that manage to painstakingly complete their studies, a new worry becomes what to do with their degrees after graduation due to lack of employment opportunities. This has in part led to some graduates pursuing basic survival economic activities such as vending and cross border trading. In even worse circumstances, students resort prostitution while others feel that they have no option but to leave for neighbouring countries like South Africa and Botswana to search for hard to find work.
To give examples of the hardships aced by students I did a preliminary survey and I found that indeed the situation is dire.
Early this year, undergraduate parallel and masters students at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) went for almost three weeks, while preparing for exams, without attending lectures as lecturers went on strike for not being paid their salaries for part time students. The institution at that time stated that the failure to pay lecturers was due to part time students owing the university about US$1.3 million, which shows how much students are struggling to pay fees.
At the Great Zimbabwe University, it appears that there are some students who have turned to the world oldest profession in order to raise fees. “Some girls engage in prostitution so they can get a good living and money for fees,” said a student from Great Zimbabwe University, Precious Maseko.”Some of the money they use to buy food and clothes.”
Such means of finding money have led to increases in the rate of HIV/AIDS in the country with high learning institutions having the highest rate.
However some students manage to get part time jobs during their course of study but that has not been easy on them.
“It’s difficult to balance school and work at the same time,” said a student from one of the local universities, Progress Matunzwa. “Also at times we go for a number of months without being paid because of economic situations but school authorities expect their fees to be paid on time.”
In institutions like Midlands State University rents costs between $240 and $270 per semester excluding food on top of an average fees of about $600. Other institutions like the NUST charge rents of about $450 per semester on campus and about $80 per month on private residents plus an average of $600 per semester depending on programs and transport money.
Long ago, students from high school could get temporary teaching posts to help them to proceed to universities. However currently temporary teaching posts are being offered to degree and certificate holders, worsening the financial situation for new students. Not every graduate or certificate holder makes it to the list of successful temporary teachers.
After graduation, some companies require employees with years of experience disadvantaging graduates without experience from getting the job, but one wonders where to get that needed experience to get a job if companies don’t give them a hands-on chance.
A student from University of Zimbabwe, Nkosi Moyo said, “Zimbabwe has to provide a policy that makes it a must for companies to provide part time jobs not only on attachment, but to help them gain some experience such that by the time they finish their degrees they are up to standard because if you employ people that know what is expected of them you will improve in many ways.”
Universities should also motivate students, through entrepreneurship courses and workshops, to start their business projects so that they create new job opportunities, helping them financially rather than to rely on being employed.
Some students suggested that government should provide them with grants or create ways that will allow them to finish paying their fees after graduations.