Govt moves to clear $62m varsities debt

HARARE – Government is clearing its $62 million debt to tertiary institutions, paying $30 000 monthly, the National Assembly has been told.

This comes as Tertiary Education deputy minister Godfrey Gandawa admitted that the multi-million debt was stifling the development of universities, which now rely on students’ fees as nothing is coming from Treasury.

“We have engaged Treasury. They are now paying $30 000 every month to the institutions spread across so that at least they cushion the institutions until the whole debt is cleared,” Gandawa told parliamentarians this week.

He said the amount being paid per month “is not as much as we would like, but as government, we appreciate the problems that we have and we assure the intervention that has been made will mitigate the challenges that the institutions are facing”.

Earlier, Gandawa had taken a swipe at parents and guardians who are not paying fees.

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“People should appreciate that we are the lowest in terms of fees,” Gandawa said after he was asked about the ballooning government debt.

“Our fees at the universities are $350 tuition fees for general programmes and $450 for the sciences, excluding accommodation. The Finance ministry or Treasury has not been allocating funds to all our institutions of higher learning and the fees are the ones that are sustaining the institutions of higher learning in terms of the learning and teaching material,” he said.

“Everything that you see happening in our institutions of higher learning, be it polytechnics, teacher’s colleges as well as universities is managed from the tuition fees that the students are paying to our institutions.”

MDC’s Bulawayo East MP, Thabitha Khumalo, had asked if the Higher and Tertiary Education ministry was meeting its costs for cadetship in universities.

“I concur with her that we have challenges in the payment of the cadetship fees and to date, our institutions of higher learning are owed $62 million by government across all institutions,” Gandawa said.

“As government, we have engaged our counterparts in the ministry of Finance because it is the Treasury’s duty. It is not the ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education that must pay the institution, but it is Treasury that is supposed to pay the institutions.”

Gandawa said government sympathises with institutions of higher learning as “they really need that money to make sure that the institutions are running”.