ZIMBABWE: Students in court for fake receipts

Twelve University of Zimbabwe students have appeared in court after attempting to write examinations using fake receipts. Many students have been ejected from universities for failing to raise fees in United States dollars.

In February 2009, the Zimbabwe government adopted the use of multi-currencies - the US dollar, South African Rand and Botswana Pula - throwing thousands of students into the streets as they failed to raise the foreign currencies to pay fees.

The majority of the country's civil servants earn less than US$200 a month, but universities are demanding between US$400 to US$1,600 per semester.

The 12 students appeared in court last Monday and were remanded out of custody on free bail.

The Zimbabwe National Students Union, Zinasu, last week condemned the arrests and subsequent appearance of the students.

"The Union maintains that there is nothing criminal about what the students did. The students were just exercising and demanding their right to education," the union said in a statement. The only crime of the ambitious students was "their desire to finish their degrees and contribute to the development of the public and private sector".

Zinasu said the University of Zimbabwe was not a private institution and should welcome both poor and rich students. The vice-chancellor should have devised ways to ensure that all students wrote their examinations, rather than being so "cruel" as to put security guards at all entrances to exam halls and denying students the right to education.

"The students did not commit an academic offence for example plagiarism. Their only crime is that they come from humble backgrounds and cannot afford the mad fees being charged at the college. The behavior of the 12 students should be a wakeup call to the government on how terrible the situation has got in institutions of higher learning," said Zinasu, demanding that charges against the students be dropped and they be allowed to write the exams.

The union claimed that last year more than 55% of students at Midlands State University were thrown out after failing to pay tuition fees ranging from US$450 to US$850.

* Meanwhile a National University of Science and Technology student, Sikhanyisiwe Nkomo, 20, has sued her father, demanding maintenance after he failed to pay her fees. In a test case that has implications for parents, Bulawayo magistrate Ntombizodwa Mazhandu granted an order that the father pay Nkomo's fees until she completes her degree.

The student, who was represented by the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers' Association, was granted maintenance of US$800 per semester. Her father has appealed against the judgment in the High Court, saying he did not have the money to pay the fees. In Zimbabwe child support ends when a child reaches the age of majority, 18 years.