Farirai Machivenyika, Harare Bureau
PRESIDENT Mugabe has taken measures to normalise the living conditions of students studying in Russia and China, and has instructed officials to ensure Government respects its commitments regarding the welfare of those studying on scholarships availed by friendly countries.
In an interview yesterday, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, Mr George Charamba, who is also the Presidential spokesperson, said the Head of State and Government wanted the matter to be dealt with expeditiously.
“The President’s attention was drawn to it (report of challenges faced by students in Russia) when we were in Uruguay and immediately upon hearing that information, the President took action to make sure that particular issue was attended to expeditiously,” he said.
“Instructions were sent back home to make sure that Government makes good its own commitments in respect of not just students in Russia, but also in China.
“Government takes a very sensitive view in respect of welfare of students who are abroad; more so, in situations where governments of goodwill would have availed fees, thereby reducing the load that we carry as Government simply to that of travel and subsistence.
“So, really, the view of the President is very clear: that Zimbabwe should be seen to be discharging that responsibility which has, anyway, been made lighter by host governments which would have availed those scholarships in the first place.”
Mr Charamba said delays could have been as a result of recent re-assignments made to Cabinet, which resulted in the creation of a new ministry specifically dedicated to scholarships.
The creation of such a portfolio, he said, was indicative of how seriously President Mugabe took manpower development in the country.
“One could see this as a problem which has to do with the changes that happened in Government,” said Mr Charamba. “The changes that the President triggered through the latest Cabinet re-assignments indicate how seriously he takes, not just manpower skills development for the country, but also a co-ordinated management of scholarships that come our way through the generosity of foreign governments.
“I notice there is some debate around the Ministry of Presidential and National Scholarships, I think that debate is needless. If you were to check what numbers we are talking about, numbers of Zimbabweans who are studying within the region and abroad, you will discover it’s a growing number which actually warrants some ministerial attention.
“In any event, the approach of the President has been one of putting accent on higher and tertiary education, but more importantly, ensuring that we plug those areas of skills deficit in a way that prepares for the industrialisation strategy that we are anticipating in the mix of our policy measures that we have taken to date.
“As I am talking to you now, I understand that the condition of our students in Russia and China has since been ameliorated through decisions that were triggered by the intervention of the President.”