The Chronicle of Higher Education
Tuesday, May 8, 2001
Scholarships for Needy Students Went to Relatives of Zimbabwean Officials, Newspaper Reports
By HENK ROSSOUW
The Zimbabwe Independent set off a scandal last week when it reported that it had been handed a list of names of the children and relatives of senior government officials in Zimbabwe who had received scholarships reserved for disadvantaged students.
The report stated that the relatives had been awarded scholarships to study abroad regardless of merit or financial need. The government officials listed belong to the ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, and include both current and former cabinet ministers.
In response to accusations of involvement by more than 10 government officials, the minister of higher education, Herbert
Murerwa, said that concerns about abuse of the scholarship program had been raised in parliament before, and that the results of the selection process were not hidden. With regard to the earlier concerns, Mr. Murerwa said, "We have tabled our responses before parliament, and we supplied it with all the names of people that have benefited." He did not say whether it was wrong for relatives of government officials to benefit from the scholarship program.
A source within the Ministry of Higher Education said that ever since the scholarship program began, relatives of government officials have been given preference over financially disadvantaged students with higher scores. Each year more than 4,000
Zimbabwean students apply to the Ministry of Higher Education to continue their educations abroad.
The scholarship program was originally intended to provide educational opportunities to talented students from disadvantaged backgrounds and civil servants whose studies could benefit the government. The students would be sent abroad to study in fields where there is a lack of local expertise, like law, medicine, actuarial science, and technology.
Applications were to be based on merit. The source within the Ministry of Higher Education said further that the scholarships that go to relatives of officials are often for undergraduate degrees in fields where local expertise already exists.