Universities Unable To Re-open As Economic Woes Worsen

ZIMBABWE’S state universities this week failed to re-open for the last semester of the year due to a combination of factors, among them a shortage of staff, industrial action by lecturers and budgetary constraints.


The University of Zimbabwe, the National University of Science and Technology (Nust), Midlands State University (MSU) and Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT) were supposed to re-open on Monday.
Last week, the UZ said it would re-open despite facing serious water problems, shortage of academic and non-academic staff, and the failure to release students’ results from the previous semester.
However, the university failed to re-open and notices to that effect were plastered all over the campus.
Nust, MSU and CUT also deferred re-opening.
The re-opening of the state universities has been postponed on several occasions because of a strike by lecturers pressing for better salaries and working conditions.
UZ acting director of information and public relations Daniel Chihombori this week could not give reasons why the college did not re-open, but emphasised stakeholders were “eager and working hard” to have the university re-open.
Sources in the Higher Education ministry said state universities were last week ordered by government to re-open despite the problems they were facing. However, the order was rescinded after the universities cited budgetary constraints and a lecturers’ strike.
Efforts to get a comment from Higher Education minister Stan Mudenge were fruitless at the time of going to print.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) this week bemoaned the absence of a substantive Minister of Education, Sport and Culture in their salary negotiations with the government.
The ministry has no substantive minister after President Robert Mugabe appointed Aeneas Chigwedere provincial governor for Mashonaland East.
Negotiations between the parent ministry and the teachers’ union have been going on since teachers embarked on an indefinite strike at the beginning of September.
“Our last attempts indicated that a substantive minister with a clear mandate was needed for negotiations to proceed,” Zimta said. “Until a minister is appointed, negotiations are virtually at a standstill. Currently there are no negotiations taking place despite the fact that we have put across our issues through the National Joint Negotiating Council.”
Education ministry permanent secretary Stephen Mahere, however, said negotiations were still in progress.
“There has never been an impasse between the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture and its teachers. The ministry continues to dialogue with the members of teachers’ organisations on matters of mutual interest in education service delivery,” Mahere said.
Teachers’ unions are pressing for their salaries to be pegged in foreign currency to cushion them against biting inflation.
The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe wants teachers to be paid an equivalent of US$1 200 using the interbank rate.
Teachers have vowed never to return to work despite being awarded a salary increment of between $62 000 and $91 000 this week.
They were initially paid between $11 000 and $15 000 a fortnight ago.

 

By Wongai Zhangazha/Thando Mpofu 

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