Vincent Gono, Features Editor
THE Government has phased out the student cadetship programme at tertiary institutions in anticipation of the re-introduction of the student loan facility later this year, officials have said.
The development comes as the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, which will administer the new student loan has indicated that it will this week carry out an adjudicating process on the proposals that were submitted by financial institutions who will provide the funding.
In a telephone interview on Friday, Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Deputy Minister Dr Godfrey Gandawa said all tertiary institutions in the country were no longer taking students for cadetship as the Government was expediting the adoption of student loans as a sustainable alternative to the phased out era where Government would assume the parental duty of paying fees.
“We have since phased out the cadetship programme in anticipation of the student loan facility where students will access loans from the banks. All tertiary institutions in the country are no longer accepting applications for cadetship. Those that are on cadetship were recruited under the programme in previous years and they are most likely in their final year,” said Dr Gandawa.
He confirmed that the Government owed tertiary institutions a substantial amount of over $27 million which he said they were working hard to clear. The revelations come in the wake of complaints by tertiary institutions that the varying amounts of money they are owed by Government are stalling various development projects at the country’s institutions of higher learning.
“We currently owe our tertiary institutions a figure of $27 024 723 for students who were on cadetship. In 2014 we received 294 000 applications from students who wanted to be considered for cadetship. Not all of them were successful. We had to go through a rigorous screening exercise from where 43 914 were considered, meaning 250 086 were unsuccessful. In that same year the amount we owed tertiary institutions initially stood at $61 030 345 and we paid $34 005 622 in January this year,” said Dr Gandawa.
He said the good thing was that the figure was no longer accruing since there were no more students on cadetship after the Government announced the return of student loans which the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and the Central Bank were working to put in place.
Institutions of higher learning such as National University of Science and Technology (Nust), University of Zimbabwe (UZ), Midlands State University (MSU), Great Zimbabwe University (GZU) and many other universities and colleges have been complaining over the Government’s failure to meet its assumed parental obligation of paying for the students on cadetship.
Some of the institutions at one time threatened to defy the Government directive not to exclude from lectures students that were on the cadetship facility saying sending them home was the only way of making sure Government would pay.
Their argument was that failure by Government to pay the fees was burdening them and stalling progress at campuses as well as making them fail to meet other financial obligations such as paying for equipment and for other staff that was not paid by Government.
Dr Gandawa, however, said they were engaging the Treasury with a view to clear the debt owed to tertiary institutions and start on the loan facility.
“You may be aware that under the cadetship we would bond the student for three years. But since 2013 we have allowed students to buy out their bonding period and be given their certificates after the realisation that we were failing to give them employment as Government had frozen recruitment.
“We hope the loan facility will be more flexible and give students the latitude to exercise some financial freedom that they did not have under cadetship. The scheme will be taken care of by the Ministry of Finance and the Reserve Bank that will give the money to various financial institutions for disbursement to the students,” said Dr Gandawa.
He said one of the banks to be used for the loan facility was CBZ while other financial institutions would be announced as the programme was rolled out as and when the requisite amount was available.
RBZ Governor Dr John Mangudya said they have received submissions after their call for proposals from financial institutions for the implementation and administration of the educational loan facility and they would be adjudicating them this week.
“We shall be adjudicating the submissions to the calls for proposals whose deadline was 19 May this week,” he said.
The adjudication process is expected to see the RBZ naming the financial institutions that would be tasked with implementing and administering the student loan facility.