Reports yesterday of Zimbabwean students on presidential scholarship programmes falling destitute in foreign lands are disturbing. Such news brings grief to the parents and is a source of embarrassment and shame to the nation.
Perennial reports of student abandonment and neglect paint a picture of a government that takes the scholarship programme as another of its many populist ventures. What is particularly deplorable — and criminal — is the cruelty of using desperate young men and women for egoistic political adventures. Such irresponsible selfishness ruins the lives of intelligent young people who stood better chances even under the economic difficulties at home.
Some of the students who have been sent to Russia and Algeria under the presidential scholarship scheme were yesterday pleading with government to bring them back home because life has become unbearable in the foreign lands where they have been dumped and forgotten about without even food.
At one time a lot of embarrassing reports came from Fort Hare University in South Africa where Zimbabwean students on presidential scholarship reportedly resorted to selling their bodies and engaging in drugs and theft because they had gone for years without the promised government grants.
This unfortunate reality has become the way of life for students on government and presidential scholarships. The excuse proffered is that government is broke. This is despite daily reports of wild spending by a few well-placed individuals in government — spending that involves millions blown on needless travel abroad by the president and obscene profligacy by the first lady.
It is crucial that authorities treat the issue of student welfare seriously. If government is unable to fund these scholarships, they should just stop them instead of exposing young lives to destitution, prostitution and other vices.
It is fact that most students that take to prostitution are genuine hunger-driven cases, but when young women take up prostitution as a source of livelihood, society is quick to put all blame on the women, refusing to acknowledge responsibility over this degrading means of survival.
Prostitution is not moral or legal or safe or fulfilling; but it fills their stomachs or perhaps the habits that they pick up along the way. So they do it. It is wrong, but they are not thinking wrong or right here. They are thinking survival; misdirected and foolish but, sometimes, clearly sincere, as they don’t see a lot of other choices. Their parents are poor and government won’t give them any money.
Authorities and parents must act to stop this disgrace, but students too must try not to stoop so low as to lose their self respect.