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The University of Zimbabwe opened last week but students have been struggling to raise fees of between US $300 and US $1,500 in a country where the highest paid civil servant earns around US $200 per month and unemployment is pegged at 90 per cent.

Zimbabwe abolished the use of the Zimbabwe dollar in February last year when the inclusive government of President Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai was formed.

Since then, the United States dollar, South African Rand and Botswana Pula were declared legal tender, which has caused major problems for students who have struggled to find the required funds.

The publication states that the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) held a crisis meeting with Prime Minister Tsvangirai last week and raised a number of issues, including the dropping out of students.

Besides the problem of unaffordable fees, they discussed the continued victimisation of student leaders by the security forces, mechanisms and proposals to re-introduce the "learn now pay later scheme" to cater for underprivileged students, and the role of students in the constitution-making process.

The students’ union said Prime Minister Tsvangirai had "welcomed the issues raised and promised to look into the challenges even if it means sourcing international assistance.”

Last year, students were forced to barter their fees with groceries, livestock and other valuables instead of cash.

“My examination of records maintained revealed that students had settled their outstanding obligations in kind by tendering valuables other than cash such as sugar beans, cows, goats, wheat, maize, provisions, fertiliser, chemicals and fuel coupons," stated Auditor General Mildred Chiri in her 2009 first quarter report.

ZINASU also complained that the new semester had opened at the University of Zimbabwe with no students able to stay in campus residences due to lack of water and dilapidated infrastructure.
However, renovations are in progress.

Last year, the university was closed because of lack of water, prompting the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) to drill boreholes.Students have since been forced to look for alternative accommodation off-campus where, according to ZINASU, they are living in squalid and grossly overcrowded conditions – as many as 56 in a house.

Some institutions of higher learning have declined to release the examination results of students who failed to pay last year’s tuition fees.

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