THE unveiling of a $100 million loan facility for students seeking to attain university and college education is a major step in ensuring that no one who desires to advance their education fails to do so.
Just before the beginning of the next semester, university and college students will be able to access loans from CBZ, which are guaranteed by the Government.
They can still separately get funding from other banks, but without Government guarantees.
What is good about this new arrangement is that the beneficiaries will pay back the loans so that others can access them.
In the past, very few bothered to pay back what the Government had advanced them, rendering the funding model unsustainable.
This time they should understand that they are getting a loan from a bank and there are mechanisms in place to ensure they pay back.
This must be made clear from the onset. It is now the responsibility of CBZ to carefully explain this arrangement to beneficiaries and their parents or guardians.
The bank must also make sure it has a strong debt recovery system so that the money can be used to help other students.
This is what happens with students’ loans in most countries, including the United States.
The loans have to be paid back, well after the students have left college and are pursuing their careers
What now needs to be done is to ensure that these students get jobs on completion of their studies.
Alternatively, there are programmes in place to help them start their own businesses. Without such an arrangement, the default rate will be high.
This loan facility should be understood in the context of the broader economic thrust which the Government is pursuing to promote growth through productivity and job creation.
The students should be helped choose their degree programmes carefully and think about what they hope to do after college before encumbering themselves with these education loans.
The new education approach, Education 5.0, emphasis is no longer just on teaching, research and community relevance, but also on innovation and industrialisation.
The Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development has been pushing hard for the establishment of innovation hubs at universities and challenging them to take the lead in promoting industrialisation.
We expect students that will come from these universities to be ready to play significant roles in the economy.
Huge advancements in Zimbabwe’s education sector, especially in the early years of independence, were possible because students could access funding for their education, without having to depend on their parents.
After college, they were guaranteed of getting jobs.
That huge investment in education has paid off as Zimbabwe has one of the highest skills bases on the continent and has exported some of its skills to other countries.
We expect that this new arrangement will result in a similar advancement in human capital.
Today, the economy is benefiting from Diaspora remittances, with some estimates putting the contribution as high as 30 percent of foreign currency receipts.
This comes as the Government has taken measures to keep college and university education affordable by capping fees at $5 000 a semester, since it continues to pay the lecturers and fund some of the universities’ expansion programmes.
In a sense, the Government is heavily subsidising tertiary education as this is critical in the economic revival of the country.
The decision to cap the fees at $5 000 came after many universities were proposing extraordinarily high fees that were beyond the reach of many.
The money availed by the Government would not have been enough had the decision to cap the fees not been taken.
We note with concern that some universities are still sending fees invoices with amounts above the stipulated $5 000.
Officials from the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development should quickly rein in such institutions.
The country’s development hinges on a skilled labour force, and it is the role of universities to produce people with such skills.
If fees become prohibitive, many students will drop out since they come from poor backgrounds, thereby affecting the country’s thrust of using its own skilled labour force, especially in industrial development.