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Open letter to Morgan Tsvangirai and Jens Stoltenberg

(PDF version here)Open letter from: ZINASU (Zimbabwe National Students Union)SST (Student Solidarity Trust)SAIH (Norwegian Student’s and Academic’s International Assistance Fund) 16.06.2008

Dear Morgan Tsvangirai, Prime Minister of Zimbabwe andJens Stoltenberg, Prime Minister of Norway.On May the 25th, the Norwegian minister of development, Erik Solheim, announced that Norway would give 9 million USD in immediate aid to the Zimbabwean people, with a focus on health, education and food. We welcome the commitment to improve the educational sector in Zimbabwe, as it is surely in a deep crisis which affects not only the situation of students, but the country as a whole. We would like to point out four specific problems that need to be addressed in order to get the higher education of Zimbabwe back on track, and we request that the announced funding from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs must be used to address these structural problems.AvailabilitySeveral universities in Zimbabwe are closed, including the University of Zimbabwe. For those universities that are open, few lecturers come to the classes. This serious lack of availability of education is clearly connected to some wider, structural problems concerning the introduction of the extremely high tuition and registration fees and the lack of salaries to lecturers.

Brain drainFurthermore, the 100 USD allowance has refueled the already critical problem of brain drain in Zimbabwe, as qualified intellectual personnel have fled to neighboring countries. Thus, funding must be given to the universities, and the inclusive government must guarantee livable salaries for the academic personnel.High fees The government’s introduction of tuitions and registration fees for higher education has resulted in some schools demanding a payment of as much as 400 USD a semester. Adding to that the high living costs, students will easily have to pay as much as 1000 USD for each semester, an amount that is out of range for the great majority of students and families. Clearly this question of affordability needs to be addressed, and aid directed to the education sector will need to seek out solutions for this. Laws allowing repression of students Furthermore, there are several threats towards the academic freedom of students. One of them is the “University Amendment Act of 1999” that gives the Vise Chancellor of an institution the right to expel students for life. One hundred and one students have been expelled since 2001 for political reasons, while hundreds have been victimized in the form of torture, arbitrary arrest and unlawful detentions. Several of them have had to finish their educations abroad. It is a clear violation of the freedom of expression and academic freedom of students, that they can be expelled for expressing political views. This law has to be reversed, and the new constitution has to acknowledge education as a human right. Lastly, but equally important, we request that marginalized and vulnerable groups, such as female and disabled students, who have been pushed into additional challenges due to the introduction of fees, should and must be specifically targeted under the new funding scheme from the Norwegian government. In this letter we have identified four main obstacles facing higher education in Zimbabwe, namely the lack of availability, brain drain, high fees and laws allowing repression of students. We sincerely urge you, the Prime Minster of Zimbabwe and the Prime Minster of Norway to jointly address the crises in the education sector. Higher education is necessary to get the Zimbabwean society running again! Therefore, we, students in Zimbabwe and Norway, urge you to make the recovery of the higher education sector one of your first priorities.Without affordable higher education, the country will never get back on track.ZINASU (Zimbabwe National Students Union)SST (Student Solidarity Trust)SAIH (Norwegian Student’s and Academic’s International Assistance Fund)

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