HARARE – Zimbabwean students who are on the presidential scholarship scheme are finding it difficult to get by because government is struggling to fund their needs.
Thousands of students are on the presidential scholarship programme, which caters for academically-gifted youths from vulnerable backgrounds such as orphans.
At the moment, most of these students are studying at universities in Russia, South Africa, India, Cyprus, Algeria and other destinations.
The Daily News can report that government had been unable to meet the pressing needs of these students due to a depressing foreign currency situation in Zimbabwe.
In the 2019 National Budget presented by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube, presidential scholarship funding was put at $8 million.
Considering that budget is in bond notes or the Real Time Gross Settlement, government would then need to raise the foreign currency to wire the money to foreign universities — a herculean task at the moment.
As a result, the students are struggling to pay for necessities such as food, accommodation, medical health and other basic needs.
On Monday, a group of students studying in Russia complained bitterly on their Twitter account that government has abandoned them after failing to keep its bargain to fund them since 2016, leaving them in a despairing situation.
Government had undertaken to provide each of the 200 students in Russia with
$3 000 per year.
“As a Zimbabwean student studying in Russia, everyday I have to choose whether to skip crucial lessons and go to work or sit in class with an empty stomach.
“Everyday I face humiliation at the hands of the school authorities for unpaid rent. We are simply asking the government to honour its end.
“We have spent more than half a year without money making us more vulnerable to hunger and starvation, police arrests and deportation,” the students wrote on Twitter.
Ravaged by hunger and the Russian cold, the hard-pressed students revealed how government has also failed to pay for their visas and the registration fees for the new semester.
Under the bilateral training agreement it has with Moscow, Russia reportedly covers tuition expenses while the Zimbabwe government meets the rest of the expenses.
Most of the students are now being subjected to abuse, ranging from forced sex and sodomy.
“Girls are now well known for selling their bodies for them to eat and many have actually stopped their studies because the situation is unbearable.
“Boys are making shisha in Nightclubs to make ends meet and few unfortunate ones are being sodomised. The situation is terrible and it needs the government immediate response.
“You published that the government is going to clear the arrears by the end of January 2019, but up to now, you haven’t released any cent,” the students lamented.
“We live and study at the mercy of the Russian government. As graduation day approaches we are faced with a mountain of arrears accumulated over five years because of our government,” the students wrote on Twitter.
The Presidential and National Scholarships Programme was was started by former president Robert Mugabe.
For years, reports have shown that many scholarship beneficiaries wretchedly scrounge to finish education in foreign lands at the same time failing to access their certificates afterwards due to the arrears.
Efforts to get a comment from former minister Christopher Mushohwe, who is still in charge of presidential scholarships were fruitless as his mobile phone was unavailable.