On Tuesday, July 22, the Herald carried a news story headlined “Student grants are back!”
In the article, the newspaper reported: “Government has re-introduced grants for students in State institutions, which were stopped several years ago due to non-repayment, to boost access to higher and tertiary education and empower people, especially the youth.”
The paper followed up this article with an editorial, on July 23, headlined: “Student grants will bolster education quality.”
In that editorial, the daily said the government had “scrapped the grants mainly due to non-repayment by students who had benefited from the grants. The year 2002 saw the government introducing a new financing policy to broaden access and opportunities in higher education”.
The headline’s suggestion that grants have been restored is misleading, as it fails to make the distinction between a grant and student loan.
In the July 22 article, the Herald itself quotes the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Minister, Amon Murwira, as saying that these were loans that would have to be repaid.
“We are now very strict. This is a commercial arrangement and students will have to pay (back). Government used to have this facility, but it collapsed during the 90s due to non-payment,” the Herald quotes Murwira as saying.
Grants and student loans are provided for under the Manpower Planning and Development Act.
Under Chapter 14 of the Act, “after consultation with the Minister responsible for finance, (the Minister of Higher Education) may make a grant or loan to or in respect of any teachers college, technical or vocational institution, university or university college” for tuition, student accommodation, salaries for teaching staff or for vocational education or training.
The Act says any grant or loan “shall be in such amount and made subject to such terms and conditions as the Minister, after consultation with the Minister responsible for finance, may fix”.
The 2019 budget, which appropriated $375.8 million for the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development, did not provide for grants.
Instead, Treasury announced plans for a partnership with a private education fund, Fundi Capital, to launch a student loan facility called Edu Loan.
“The loans target payment of tuition fees, accommodation and educational materials. However, to access the above loans, students need to have collateral security to guarantee repayment of the loans plus interest. The 2019 budget has, therefore, set aside resources amounting to US$8 million to cater for those disadvantaged students without the required security,” the 2019 budget statement says.
The Herald failed to distinguish between a loan and a grant. Whereas a grant is a form of financial aid that does not need to be repaid, a loan requires repayment.
What the Zimbabwe government has announced is a plan to launch a new student loan scheme.
The Herald article is therefore misleading.- ZimFact