Bulawayo-based university considers student quotas

Zimbabwe’s National university of Science and Technology (NUST) is considering introducing a student quota system, arguing that students from other regions have been getting the bulk of places at the institution.

A local newspaper The Chronicle recently quoted the university's director of information and public relations, Felix Moyo, as saying that a decision would be made while considering entry applications for the forthcoming student intake.

NUST is located in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second biggest city after Harare. Some residents have agitated for Bulawayo, Matabeleland and Matabeleland South provinces to break away from Zimbabwe on the grounds of being deliberately sidelined and undermined by President Robert Mugabe’s government.

But secession demands have been thwarted and some individuals charged with treason.

“We will wait for the applications to come in so that we are able to agree on how to accommodate students from this region who complain of being sidelined. This is why we are urging people to apply [soon] so that we know how best to help them,” Moyo was reported as saying.

Zimbabwe has 10 provinces, with the three in the southwest dominated mainly by Ndebele-speaking people while the other seven are dominated by Shona speakers.

Mugabe has dismissed claims that his government deliberately undermines the Matabeleland provinces. But those sentiments run deep; and in successive polls, people in Ndebele regions have voted against Mugabe.

If the quota system is adopted by the university, it would be Zimbabwe’s first – and the idea has had a mixed reception among locals.

Some have argued in the media that NUST offers subjects not available at other institutions in the country and should therefore not bar students from other areas access to them – and that if quota systems were adopted by other universities, Ndebele students too could be denied places in subjects not offered locally.

But Mbuso Fuzwayo, director of a local pressure group, believes the quote system should be implemented because the university is not adequately meeting the needs of its environs.

“The bulk of students come from elsewhere and after studies they go back to their homes. We must have children from here who will serve our province after their studies,” Fuzwayo said.