Students arrested for protesting about tuition fees

Ten Zimbabwean trainee teachers appeared in the Harare Magistrate’s Court on 21 September following protests over tuition fees at two teachers’ colleges in the capital.

On 20 September, the Zimbabwe police arrested the students from the Belvedere Teachers’ College and the Morgan Zintec College for protesting against the institutions for financial decisions, including blocking them from accessing the campus before paying their tuition fees and barring unregistered students from writing exams.

The students say fees ranging from between ZWL$38,200 (US$442.64) for boarding and ZWL$21,100 (US$244.5) for day students are beyond their reach and they are planning to march to the office of Professor Amon Murwira, the minister of higher education, science and technology development, to register their concerns. The students are due to write exams in October.

The student teachers were arrested at Belvedere Technical Teachers’ College and first detained at Milton Park Police Station before they were transferred to Harare Central Police Station where they were charged with disorderly conduct in a public place.

They were represented by Tinashe Chinopfukutwa and Paidamoyo Saurombe of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and were all released on ZWL5,000 bail. They have been ordered to report to the Harare Central Police Station every two weeks, not to interfere with witnesses and to continue residing at their given addresses.

The 10 are Lavender Makoni, Stephen Mariwo, Julia Munyanyi, Tariro Chineganda, Talent Madzivanyika, Nqobizitha Masuku, Blessing Nyamarowa, Nokhuthula Zengeni, Walter Muzamani and Tracy Ngomambi.

While the students were in custody on 20 September, Chinopfukutwa and Saurombe managed to get Lavender Makoni, one of the student teachers, released from police custody and detained at a local hospital to access treatment while they also secured the release of Blessing Nyamarowa, who is currently breastfeeding. Makoni sustained some injuries from assault by police officers who arrested her.

The Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe said in a statement: “It is sad that in this economic environment … government institutions have gone on a crusade to punish the poor for being poor. The government must not respond with brutality when students demand the right to education.

“We call for solidarity from all progressive citizens, students and institutions towards those arrested and [we are] amplifying their calls for equal access of education for all,” the union said.

Speaking to University World News about the arrest of the 10 student teachers, Tapiwanashe Chiriga, the secretary general of the Zimbabwe National Students Union, said the students want affordable and accessible education and not handcuffs and dungeons.

“They want an audience with the principal, their lecturers, with the minister of higher education and with the chancellors of all universities and not the officer in charge of the law and order section of the police. What the students want is so simple. We want education and not arrests,” he said.

All US$ values were calculated at the government’s official interbank rate of US$1:ZWL$86.30.