Jameson Timba, chairman of the Association of Trust Schools, said the Zimbabwe Schools Examinations Council (ZIMSEC), which set and marked examinations for pupils to advance to university, was in trouble because it was broke.
The cancellation of the June exam and a delay in scoring the previous November’s exam had put in jeopardy university plans of thousands of pupils.
But this seemed only to be affecting the poor.
A United States official said those well off were paying for their children to write Cambridge exams.
This had to be paid for in foreign currency but it allowed their children to go and study abroad in the United States, Britain and Australia.
Viewing cable 07HARARE443, THE COLLAPSE OF A ONCE SHINING EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM
PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSB #0443/01 1381011
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 181011Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY HARARE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1495
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 1600
RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 1467
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 1604
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0265
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0869
RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 1232
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 1660
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 4066
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1429
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 2087
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0727
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 1821
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK//DOOC/ECMO/CC/DAO/DOB/DOI//
RUEPGBA/CDR USEUCOM INTEL VAIHINGEN GE//ECJ23-CH/ECJ5M//
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000443
AF/S FOR S. HILL
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B. PITTMAN
USAID FOR E. LOKEN
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: THE COLLAPSE OF A ONCE SHINING EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM
Sensitive but unclassified – please handle accordingly.
¶1. (U) The University of Zimbabwe (UZ) is on the verge of
collapse as a result of a continuing three- month strike by
lecturers, insufficient resources, and dilapidated
conditions. Additionally, the UZ has been wracked by
violence as security forces have attacked students protesting
university conditions and GOZ oppression. Problems with the
administration of qualifying exams for secondary students
hoping to enter the UZ have forced thousands of students to
put their plans on hold. Meanwhile, the children of elites,
including offspring of ruling party officials, escape the
failing educational system by studying abroad, mainly in the
U.S., U.K. and Australia. End Summary.
Lecturers Strike For Better Wages
¶2. (U) The University of Zimbabwe (UZ) campus in Harare is
barely functioning as a strike by undergraduate faculty over
paltry wages stretches into its third month and threatens to
nullify the entire academic term. Only about two weeks of
undergraduate classes have taken place since the beginning of
the term, which is set to finish at the end of May. UZ
administrators have proposed extending the term to permit
time to prepare for exams, but lecturers have balked at the
idea. As things stand now, approximately 1,000 UZ final year
students will not graduate on time.
¶3. (U) Undergraduate lecturers continue to hold out for an
acceptable pay increase. At present, the monthly net salary
of a tenured UZ lecturer is equivalent to approximately US$30
(at the unofficial parallel market rate of Z$30,000:US$1).
The Poverty Datum Line (the minimum required to meet the
needs of an average family of five) was Z$1.7 million (about
US$57 at the parallel market rate) in March. UZ
administrators recently offered an increase that would have
given faculty a net salary of approximately Z$3.8 million
(about US$126 at the parallel market rate), but the lecturers
turned it down because the new salary would not have started
until July and inflation (reliable private sector economists
estimate annualized inflation to be between 8,500 and 14,000
percent and rising rapidly) would have quickly negated the
Violence Rocks Campus
¶4. (SBU) Lecturers are not the only ones suffering on campus.
Campus and state security agents are targeting student
leaders, who have protested University conditions and GOZ
policies, for arrests and beatings. In a May 8 incident at
UZ Harare campus, Clifford Hlatshwayo, vice president of the
Student Representative Council, suffered a broken arm and
internal injuries when he was attacked in his dorm room by
several men. Hlatshwayo told poloff he was asleep in his
room when some men pounded on his door around 1:00 AM
claiming to be campus security. When he opened the door,
HARARE 00000443 002 OF 003
four to six men, who he suspected were state security agents,
attacked him with iron bars.
¶5. (U) On May 10, riot police broke up a meeting to plan
student elections at the UZ Harare campus by firing tear gas
and beating students. Two student leaders were arrested.
According to student representatives, one suffered a broken
arm and the other internal ear bleeding. Prosecutors
declined to file charges, but police refused to release them
until the High Court on May 15 ordered their release.
According to a May 17 press release from the UZ Student
Executive Council, as a result of the May 10 meeting the
University expelled one student and suspended eight others.
Dilapidated Conditions Fuels Frustration
¶6. (SBU) Conditions at the UZ Harare campus are in a total
state of disrepair, according to Hlatshwayo. Of 36 toilets
in one dorm building on campus, only three are functional.
Additionally, several floors of students at the dorm are
forced to share one or two working showers. Hlatshwayo added
that the food served at the campus cafeteria was almost
inedible. The sadza (the staple food of Zimbabwe) was
watered-down and up to 40 students typically shared one KG of
meat. He added that students, who have scrimped to pay
school fees, were growing increasing restive as the
lecturers’ strike wears on and conditions at campus worsen.
Cancelling Exam Gives New Meaning to Senior Slump
¶7. (U) Jameson Timba, chairman of the Association of Trust
Schools, told us that the ZIMSEC exam, required for entry
into Zimbabwe’s university system and next scheduled for
June, may be cancelled due to a lack of resources to
administer the exam. (Note. The exam is normally offered in
June and November. End Note.) Timba said that the
cancellation of the June exam and a delay in scoring last
November’s exam had put in jeopardy university plans of
thousands of students.
¶8. (U) Rebecca Zeigler-Mano, director of the Embassy’s
Education USA program, told us that the ZIMSEC problems and
the deteriorating condition of the University of Zimbabwe had
resulted in increasing numbers of students taking the
Cambridge exams, which must be paid for in foreign currency,
with the intent of studying outside the country, often in the
U.S., UK, and Australia. Many of the students that have
access to foreign currency and can afford the extra expense
of the Cambridge exams come from ZANU-PF families.
¶9. (U) During the first two decades of independence the
Zimbabwe education system was considered a shining star in
Africa and the University of Zimbabwe was regarded as a
world-class institution. In fact, many of Zimbabwe’s current
political and economic elites are graduates of the
University. The quality of education, however, has suffered
HARARE 00000443 003 OF 003
dramatically as a result of the seven-year economic decline
and the University is struggling to survive. It is ironic
that children of the ruling elites who are responsible for
educational collapse are not affected — many are studying in
the U.S., the UK, or Australia — while their parents decry
the policies of these countries.