The universities lock their doors
A bleak outlook for Zimbabwe's students as classes fail to start
All four of Zimbabwe's universities have failed to open for the first semester of the 2008/2009 academic year. And the country's students are left wondering if their education has come to a sudden and permanent stop.
The University of Zimbabwe (UZ), the National University of Science and Technology (NUST), Midlands State University (MSU) and Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT) have all failed to open their doors, some six weeks after the scheduled resumption of studies.
The basic problem at all four establishments seems to be a familiar one for our country: the staff have withdrawn their labour because their salaries are unrealistically low.
I understand that lecturers have demanded a monthly salary of US$1500, which is the average paid for similar posts in South Africa. But it is clear that none of the institutions can afford this level of pay.
Students who attempted to attend in the normal way were met by brief notices announcing an indefinite suspension of all activity. One statement, by MSU Registrar G.T. Gurira, claimed that his university had officially opened on September 30, but closed immediately due to a withdrawal of labour by members of the teaching staff.
I contacted UZ Vice-Chancellor Professor Levy Nyagura, who told me that the decision to close was made by his university council, but he refused to comment on the reasons for that decision.
Zimbabwe National Students Union president Clever Bere said the closure of the universities was a sign of failed leadership in the country. "The end loser was always going to be the student," he said. "First we lost out on quality of teaching, now we are losing out on any teaching at all."
Final year economics student Primrose Siluma said: "I hoped I would graduate this year. Then I could find a job and help my parents. Now there is no chance, and I am devastated."