ZIMBABWEAN students studying in Russia on government scholarships have narrated disturbing tales of sodomy, prostitution and other unthinkable means of survival as they cannot meet food and rentals expenses since the government of Zimbabwe has repeatedly failed to send them money.
Find below their unedited accounts as hunger hits them:
“As a Zimbabwean student studying in Russia, every day I have to choose whether to skip crucial lessons and go to work or sit in class with an empty stomach. Every day I face humiliation at the hands of the school authorities for unpaid rent.
“Every day I face humiliation at the hands of the school authorities for unpaid rent. Every day I wonder how I will be able to pay hospital bills if I get sick because I can’t afford medical aid. Our government has completely abandoned its responsibilities.
“Boys are making shisha in Nightclubs to make ants meat and few unfortunate ones are being sodomized. The situation is terrible and it needs the government immediate response.
“If you had told us the truth we wouldn’t have accepted this offer from the word go. Why are you making us suffer like this? Girls are now well known for selling their bodies for them to eat and many have actually stopped their studies because the situation is unbearable.
“We haven’t paid rentals and compulsory medical insurance. There’s no food to eat and warm shoes for this winter. We need money. In Russia, there is no excuse for I don’t have. Why would you promise us that you will take care of us whilst you do the exact opposite?
“However every time my stomach growls in class from hunger and every time people see me in tattered clothes, my country’s name is soiled.
“Life in Russia is extremely expensive. On top of that, we are obliged to pay expenses like rent, medical insurance, visa and transport. In the first place, the government has promised to give each beneficiary a stipend of $3000 per year and they made every student sign the forms.
“The president visited Russia and as a father, we believed he would not come to see his children with open hands. Did I just say see, he even insisted on seeing only student representatives, shall we talk of closed arms too. He had a tight schedule, I understand.
“The President promised he has availed something for us and starting January we would receive some money for the upkeep, The Minister of Finance was there agreeing that they do have something ready for us. We couldn’t be any happier, I for one was bubbling with joy!
“Why can’t you keep the promise? We have spent more than half a year without money making us more vulnerable to hunger and starvation, police arrests and deportation.
“The Russians kept their promise, as they said in the contract that they will pay tuition fees and they’re doing so.We started a new semester & we need money for registration, hostel fees, medicals and visas and to cover arrears for previous semester that we started without money.
“The ZBC broadcasted that the students have been given their money.That’s assuring our parents with false hope. Now they followed a series of excuses; “the officials who are supposed to bring the money are waiting for their visas and will be coming next week.”
“We live and study at the mercy of the Russian government. As graduation day approaches we are faced with a mountain of arrears accumulated over 5 years because of our government. All we want is for our government to grow a conscience.We try to be good ambassadors of our country.
“It’s now the third week, we are still waiting. Next week surely never arrives. In 2016/17 academic year, we didn’t receive anything and we are being told let’s leave the past into the past. I am a student, in a foreign land and not allowed to work.
“This scholarship is meant for underprivileged students like those who don’t have parents like us.Our Zimbabwe govt promised to take care of us but its not.The weather is more than harsh here, as I write the temperature is 20 degrees below zero and it’s only the start of winter.”
While in Russia in January, President Mnangagwa assured his government would immediately start clearing arrears amounting to US$600 000 owed to Zimbabwean students pursuing higher education degrees in Russia under a bilateral training agreement.
The President made the commitment after meeting representatives of the Zimbabwe Students Association in the Russian Federation in Moscow.
There are about 200 Zimbabwean students on Russian government scholarships, and around 160 others on private arrangements.
Under the bilateral training agreement, Russia covers tuition costs while the Government of Zimbabwe meets living expenses.
Government undertook to provide each of the nearly 200 students on the scholarships with $3 000 per year.
Only last week, the Government of Zimbabwe invited more students to apply for the scholarships to Russia, Azerbaijan and other countries.
Some have suggested that government focuses on local scholarships since it has perennially failed to make good its promise to students on foreign lands.
Besides, virtually all the degree programmes offered on these foreign scholarships are available at local universities.