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ZOU, Students Clash Over Virtual Graduation

Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU) students are up in arm with the institution’s authorities over graduation guidelines which will see some learners graduating virtually while a selected few will have the opportunity to be capped by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on 7 December.

The university has been using COVID-19 regulations which forbade every graduating student to attend in person while allowing only those attaining doctorates, masters and those getting book prices to attend in person.

The main event will be at the Hatcliffe Campus while those who will attend virtually will be at Belvedere Teacher’s colleges in Harare. Other centers have been organized around the country.

However, the in person restrictions were relaxed early in the year by Mnangagwa and many people are able to gather in numbers.

Some students accuse the institution of profiteering from them as they are being asked to pay US$60 graduating fee despite them not attending in person. The price is also similar for those attending in person, a move which has irked those who were left out.

“I’m not happy with ZOU, they are treating us like dogs. We cannot pay US$60 for us to graduate virtually. What is so special with others, they should have paid the full payment while those who are not attending physically would pay half and we get our certificates. We are not happy,” said one source from the university.

The students, through their Student Representative Council, have since approached the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education Innovation, Science and Technology seeking recourse for their plight.

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In a letter seen by 263Chat, the students allege that provided that compliance will be ensured in respect of 24 hour PCR TESTS or Vaccination Cards, the rationale behind the restriction of a fully pitched graduation by the Institution becomes unjustifiable.

“It is a desired from within of every tertiary education learner to witness His Excellency Cde E.D Mnangagwa presenting that life opening speech lively NOT virtually as proposed by the institution,” part of the letter reads.

They also alleged that prior consultation to the main stakeholder of the event which is the graduates has not been done as they can safely testify that they were not consulted and notified of the basis and rationale of not conducting the graduation in full as per tradition.

They have also written a signed petition ,signed by 271 students, to the university expressing their displeasure.

“What pains is that they were told by the Minister that the next graduation must be onsite, so it took them a year to sort out the venue. It is also alleged that they were given money by the President to build structures at the complex, but nothing has been done,” said one student who requested anonymity.

Another student, said they are disappointed by ZOU as they had to face difficulties during the COVID-19 period only to be barred form the event.

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“I’m a disturbed student. What ZOU has done is unprecedented. All universities have been doing physical graduations but somehow we are unable to do it, we are forced to do virtual graduation. We learnt during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, we self taught. We didnt have modules and tutorials. Now that we have done all we can to get to the graduation day, we are told that we cannot attend.

“After all, I’m made to pay the dame amount as someone who is attending physically while im told to watch the event on television. Why should i pay to watch my own graduation on television, i would rather use that money for other purposes than waste it?” she said.

The SRC President, Nkosana Puleni told 263Chat that the board will represent the interests of the students in this matter. However, he would not be drawn into accepting that the SRC will push for the students to be physically available for their graduation.

“In our best efforts to push the students’ agenda, as a representative, we actually want the best for the students, whatever they want is what we do,” Puleni said.

263Chat could not obtain a comment from the university as the Dean of Students’ number was unavailable.

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