Mabasa Sasa in Moscow
GOVERNMENT will immediately start clearing arrears amounting to US$600 000 owed to Zimbabwean students pursuing higher education degrees in Russia under a bilateral training agreement, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has directed.
The President made the commitment after meeting representatives of the Zimbabwe Students Association in the Russian Federation in Moscow yesterday.
There are about 200 Zimbabwean students on Russian government scholarships, and around 160 others on private arrangements.
Under the bilateral training agreement, Russia covers tuition costs while the Government of Zimbabwe meets living expenses.
Government undertook to provide each of the nearly 200 students on the scholarships with $3 000 per year.
After yesterday’s meeting, which was convened at President Mnangagwa’s request, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Dr John Mangudya was mandated with clearing the arrears of US$600 000.
Presidential spokesperson Mr George Charamba said: “The President was very sympathetic to the students’ concerns and directed the (RBZ) governor to start clearing the arrears starting this month,” he said.
“There will be monthly disbursement’s of $200 000, so that should see the matter resolved in three months.”
Mr Charamba said the migration of the portfolio of State scholarships from the President’s Office to the Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Ministry had spawned logistical challenges that had now been resolved and the lines of communication between students on scholarships abroad and Government had been regularised.
A representative of the students, Mr Fraternity Makande, said the engagement with President Mnangagwa had been the most fruitful they had ever had with Government.
“The President requested the meeting and we were honoured to present both our challenges and our potential contributions to his quest to create an upper middle-income economy,” he said.
“We spoke of the structural and financial support we expect from Government, and I am pleased to say that our President is a listening President. He said he would champion our cause, and he showed that he appreciates what we are going through as students pursuing studies abroad.
“We understand the economic problems at home, and he understood our financial problems here, and he has undertaken to resolve our issues.”
Mr Makande said they appreciated that the change in the governance architecture of State scholarships had caused a breakdown in communication, but that gap had been steadily closed since the 2018 harmonised elections.
He said they were pleased with the treatment they had been getting from the Russian government.
Another students’ representative, Mr Artwell Muzata, said the meeting with President Mnangagwa had gone very well.
“I was impressed with the engagement we had with the President; he’s no doubt a listening President,” he said. “I am also happy with the opportunity provided by the scholarships agreement as I am acquiring critical skills that are needed to grow Zimbabwe’s economy.
“We raised the challenge of integrating these skills when we return home, and the President assured us that his Government would create a platform and a structure for such re-induction so that these skills do not go to waste.
“We also raised the issue of students with physical challenges, and how they are not adequately catered for when it comes to technical training.”
President Mnangagwa is in Russia on a three-day State Visit at the invitation of his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin.