I AM outraged by the plight of Zimbabwean scholarship students in Algeria.
The Algerian government and Zimbabwe before the inclusive government made a pact to send undergraduate students to Algeria on a jointly funded scholarship programme, with the former providing tuition fees and the latter taking care of studentsâ€™ welfare. Of interest to me are students that left for Algeria last year in the second week of November and among them was my sister-in-law. My wife and I gave her US$200 as pocket money. She was quite comfortable for the first two months or so but she was lucky to have had that kind of money because most of the students were from poor rural backgrounds, had no money and were relying on a promise of welfare made by the then government of Zimbabwe.
As I write, it is past mid-March and the students who went on scholarship to Algeria last year have not received a cent from the government of Zimbabwe. Their visas have since expired and they are now considered illegal immigrants. Others have resorted to prostitution. At first I had believed my sister-in-law had made a breakthrough but now I feel that she and a host of other students have been condemned to live a life of destitution in a foreign land.
Ten days ago I sent her money through a very expensive bank telegraphic transfer. I wanted to send her US$100 and for that the bank charged me US$25. I was told the money would be routed through New York so she would probably get a balance of US$60 after other bank charges have been deducted. Effectively it meant that it cost me US$65 to send her US$60! When I contacted her yesterday she lamented that the money would take about 21 days to reflect in her friendâ€™s account, because as an illegal she does not have an account.
This situation needs to be addressed or the students simply be brought back home. You are probably wondering why I did not send her money via Western Union or MoneyGram. Well, these money transfer agents barred any money from being sent from Zimbabwe to any other country. Zimbabwe only receives! If I want to send via these money transfer agents I have to cross the border into Botswana or South Africa. That is how bad the situation is.
I am therefore imploring the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education Stan Mudenge and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Simbarashe Mumbengegwi to look into the issue of Algerian scholarship students with urgency. While still at it, may the Minister of Finance Tendai Biti send some money right away to Algeria to help the students who are now considered as lepers and outcasts.