Walter Mswazie Masvingo Correspondent
THE government has reversed a proposed 50 percent reduction of grants to State universities, giving relief to thousands of students who had been told to brace for increases in fees of up to 60 percent.
Professor Jonathan Moyo, the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development yesterday assured staff at the Great Zimbabwe University (GZU) that the government had reversed the decision.
He said: “Proposals had been made to reduce the government wage bill and that was going to see State universities being affected as a 30 percent cut on the grant had been mooted.
“The proposed cut had been raised to 50 percent but dialogue between the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development and treasury managed to come up with a resolution which saw the latter’s decision being rescinded.”
Speaking at the university’s Herbert Chitepo Law School, Prof Moyo acknowledged the challenge that university staff face in getting salaries and offered to engage the responsible ministry over the matter to see how best it could be addressed.
Prof Moyo said university workers are not civil servants and they would not be treated as such, hence it was important to give universities grants to cater for their salaries.
“As you all know, in June the government made pronouncements that the grant given to State universities should be reduced by 30 percent which was raised further to 50 percent. I’m happy to confirm that the decision was rescinded and the position is that it won’t be done,” said Prof Moyo.
He said upon his appointment in July, he found the proposal still pending and it was supposed to come into effect on August 1.
“We’ve since resolved that the grant will not be reduced by any percentage,” he reiterated.
Prof Moyo, however, said the late disbursement of the grant remains a challenge and hailed some universities who have come up with contingency measures to advance salaries to their employees from their coffers.
He said although it is not a desirable situation to have universities use temporary measures to pay their staff while waiting for the release of the money from treasury, the system has gone a long way in alleviating the situation.
“We’ll move into that issue, focusing our attention on the issue of [pay] dates. Civil servants get their monies earlier than you and it’s after the payment of civil servants that you’re paid. The last time I checked I realised that you didn’t want to be civil servants,” he added.
GZU staff raised concern over the delay in getting their salaries with others alleging that they receive their salaries about three weeks later than their actual pay days.
Meanwhile, students at the country’s State universities have celebrated the decision to maintain grants at their present level.
“I’m a second year visiting student at the Midlands State University. I pay $745 per semester. We had been told the fees would shoot up to $1,200 after removal of the grants,” said the student who preferred anonymity.
“I’m among tens of thousands of students who are celebrating. I was seriously thinking of dropping out of school. Prof Moyo is a man who knows the importance of education and his appointment has come as a blessing to all of us.”