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Fees rise from one cow to six per semester

Tuition fees at state universities were increased by 500 percent with those at the University of Zimbabwe increasing from Z$6 million to Z$30 million a year while meals went up from Z$1.5 million a semester to Z$21 million.

A cable released by Wikileaks even quipped that the conventional wisdom that a term’s fees once equated to one cow no longer applied as it now took at least six head of cattle to get through a semester.

Political science professor John Makumbe told United States embassy officials that enrolment had dramatically reduced with only about 50 social studies students registering as compared with about 1 000 normally.


Full cable:



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Reference ID






2006-02-24 09:30

2011-08-30 01:44


Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000227









E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/24/2015







Classified By: Ambassador Christopher Dell for reasons 1.5 b/d






1. (C) Massive tuition increases at state colleges have

triggered student unrest as the academic year resumes this

month. The GOZ announced in early February that tuition for

the coming year would jump from between Z$6 and Z$9 million

to between Z$30 and Z$45 million. Upset that scholarships

were not increased accordingly, at least 200 students

demonstrated on February 15 at Bulawayo,s National

University of Science and Technology (NUST), causing damage

to one university building. Police arrested and quickly

released 22 students at NUST and 15 students at a later

demonstration at Masvingo Polytechnic. At the University of

Zimbabwe (UZ), a professor tells us that student leaders are

planning more demonstrations once classes resume next week.

End summary.



Massive School Fee Hike



2. (U) Reflecting the ever-increasing cost of living in

Zimbabwe, the government on February 6 announced that tuition

and related fees at state colleges would increase as much as

500 percent this academic term. Tuition at UZ for arts and

humanities students was increased from Z$6 million to Z$30

million per year, while tuition for medical and veterinary

students rose from Z$9 million to Z$45 million. Fees for

room and board were increased also; meals, for instance, went

from Z$1.5 million per semester to Z$21 million. Totaling

the bill, a medical student who lives on campus must pay Z$93

million for the current year (equivalent to US$940 at the

official rate or US$490 at the parallel rate of



3. (U) Scholarships and student loans, however, were

increased at a far lower rate, pushing local university

education out of the reach of many. Student can hope for

financial assistance of only between Z$11.4 and Z$17.5

million (equivalent to US$115 and US$176, respectively, at

the official rate). For the bulk of UZ students who come

from poorer backgrounds, the conventional wisdom that a

term,s fee once equated to one cow no longer applies; now it

will take at least six head of cattle to get through a

semester. UZ political science professor John Makumbe told

poloff on February 21 that enrollment was therefore

dramatically reduced; with only days left to enroll, about 50

social studies students had registered as compared with about

1,000 normally. In the law faculty, Dean Emmanuel Magade

told poloff on February 23 that only 30 students had

registered, as opposed to about 700 normally.


4. (C) Elinor Burkett, a Fulbright scholar at NUST, told

Post that students there who had not paid their fees by March

27 would not be permitted to attend class. She estimated

that only about 10 percent of students could raise the

necessary funds. Unable to raise revenue through tuition,

Burkett said the university would likely be unable to cover

the salaries of lecturers. (N.B. NUST received a budget of

only Z$49 billion this year, having asked for about Z$540




Prompts Wave of Student Activism



5. (C) The climbing costs of education have fueled unrest on

campuses as students return from holidays. At least 200

students at NUST demonstrated on February 15 against the new

fees and demanded a meeting with Vice Chancellor Lindela

Ndlovu, according to Burkett. Ndlovu, however, refused to

talk to the students and campus security descended on the

demonstrators, reportedly beating up one of the leaders. The

students responded by rioting and breaking the windows of an

administrative building. According to Zimbabwe Lawyers for

Human Rights, a core group of 22 were to be charged with

malicious injury to property and public violence.


6. (U) Students at other universities have taken up the

campaign against the new fees. On February 16 thousands of

students at the UZ Medical School and at Bulawayo Polytechnic

boycotted classes over the hikes, according to accounts in

the independent press. Student demonstrations then spread to

Masvingo Polytechnic on February 21 where students marched on

the campus to protest the new fees. According to press

accounts, police riot squads disbursed the demonstrators and

briefly detained 15 students.


7. (C) The Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) has

called on students to take to the streets and has begun

addressing colleges nationwide with the message &we can,t

pay, won,t pay.8 Professor Makumbe told poloff that ZINASU

was planning a demonstration at UZ on February 27 to coincide

with the resumption of classes. According to the usually

fiery Makumbe, the students were highly organized and were

determined not &to duck the bullets.8 Makumbe said the

demonstrating students would also highlight other economic

problems ) such as joblessness – and speculated that the

activism could snowball to other groups nationwide.






8. (C) After recent years of dormancy and infiltration by

the security services, the students appear to be regaining

their radicalism of several years ago. Between 2000 and

2002, demonstrations and even riots where commonplace at UZ

and, to a lesser extent, NUST, leading to violent suppression

by police and frequent closures that delayed graduation for

many by one to two years. However, with the graduation of

student activists such as Raymond Majongwe and Nelson

Chamisa, the ZINASU became thoroughly penetrated by the GOZ

and started to be viewed with increasing skepticism by the

student body. The recent fee hikes, however, have combined

with the ever-crumbling economy to produce a potentially

volatile mixture. This is especially true for poorer

families, who lack the opportunity to send their children

abroad and are faced with a deteriorating domestic education

system that comes at an ever-higher price. Nonetheless,

adding to the surrealist quality of Zimbabwe these days,

Mugabe singled out the Education Ministry for special praise

for &sustaining the education system8 during his birthday

interview that aired on Sunday.


9. (C) It Remains to be seen whether the students, plight

will resonate with the general population. Although the

Morgan Tsvangirai-aligned MDC National Youth Council has

condemned the new fee structure and ZINASU has reportedly

reached out to some key NGOs, civil society has to date been

largely silent on the issue. Much will depend on how

effective the students are, among themselves and with the

wider population, at articulating the connections between

their personal economic predicament, the country,s general

economic decline, and the ruling party,s economic

mismanagement. The arrest of 300 WOZA activists last week

(reftel) and 105 NCA activists at two demonstrations this

week (all but the 62 NCA activists arrested on Thursday have

since been released) demonstrate that broader dissatisfaction

exists, but it far has yet to spur any concerted form of

wide-scale civil resistance. There is fertile ground for

rallying Zimbabweans against the economic decline of recent

years, but the strength of students, determination to

postpone or even derail their studies for the sake of

activism remains to be tested ) especially given that a

college degree is one,s surest way out of Zimbabwe and to a

better future.



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