Joseph Madzimure, Harare Bureau
Tertiary education students can now access $90 million in loans to help pay their fees from the beginning of this semester, while an additional $10 million will be released next month.
The loan schemes were stopped several years ago due to non-repayment, but the new scheme is being run by CBZ Bank with Government guarantees.
The Government expects the bank to follow up and ensure those who borrow do in fact pay back.
Students needing financial assistance should get loan forms from their college or university before the opening of the semester.
The move comes after the Government directed universities not to charge more than $5 000 in all fees per semester, while polytechnics and teachers’ colleges have been directed to charge fees below $1 300 for certificate and diploma programmes.
Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Amon Murwira confirmed that students will access loans this semester under the Government-backed loan scheme that applies to all tertiary institutions, including teachers’ colleges, polytechnics and universities.
“We have re-introduced a loan facility which was stopped long back,” he said. “We have capitalised it to $90 million as we speak. We want to make sure that by February, it will be $100 million which is available for those students who might not afford the fees.
“But you can see our fees are cheaper than those charged at high schools.”
Minister Murwira said the loans, sized according to fees and need, will be granted by CBZ Bank branches countrywide.
“We held a successful meeting with the CBZ Bank officials on Wednesday this week on the modalities of the student loan facility,” he said. “They are now finalising on the technical aspect on how the funds can be disbursed. Once that is done, the process will begin.”
Minister Murwira said the colleges will tell their students when to collect application forms before the opening of the first semester.
“We held a meeting with the administrators from tertiary institutions and I advised them to make an immediate arrangement with CBZ Bank so that students will apply for the loans before the opening of the first semester,” he said.
“The arrangement is that; the colleges will secure the application forms on behalf of their students from the bank, while the students will get them from their institutions.
“We made the arrangement after realising the need for students to apply before the opening of the first semester, so that they pay fees on time, which will help in the day to day running costs of the institutions.”
Minister Murwira urged students to apply for loan facilities from other banks.
“The loan facilities from the private players are still available,” he said. “The Getbucks, CBZ, POSB and ZB are still on, so nothing has been closed. The facility with the private players is a private arrangement between the financial institution and the student upon providing required documentation.”
Tertiary institutions are set to open next month, with some of them having heeded the Government directive not to increase fees for the coming semester without approval.
Great Zimbabwe University director of information Mr Anderson Chipatiso said he was not at liberty to comment or release fees structures.
“I cannot comment right now,” he said. “We are waiting for the Government directive.”
A proposed fees structure for National University of Science Technology has $2 100 for the Faculties of Commerce, Communication and Information Sciences, and Science and Technology Education, while the Faculty of Medicine will charge $5 000.
There are some additional levies, supplementary examination fees and deferred special examinations, which vary from each department.
The proposed fees structure for University of Zimbabwe ranges from $3 500 for Social Sciences, while the Faculty of Medicine is pegged at $8 325.
There are also other additional expenses such as sports levy, student union levy, student development levy and medical cover, among others.
Tertiary students commended Government intervention for capping fees at $5 000, and the re-introduction of loans to cushion them.
University of Zimbabwe Student Representative Council vice president Wilbert Muzaruwetu said Government’s intervention was a welcome move, but steps should be taken to ensure that the loans were accessible on time. “There are costs associated with tertiary learning such as transport, accommodation, medical aid, food supplements on campus, among others,” he said.
“Not all students secure accommodation at campus, hence non-resident students need money to pay rent, transport, food, among others facilities. The loan facility should be enough to cover all the necessities.”
Students called on the Government to monitor the operations of their institutions to ensure they abided by the Government directives.