THE CURRENT political and economic situation in Zimbabwe is making it increasingly difficult for Zimbabwean students to find foreign currency to pay their university fees in South Africa, said Jerome September of the International Academic Programmes Office (IAPO).
"People can obtain foreign currency through the Zimbabwean banking system, but it is heavily controlled as the government prioritises oil and food before education," he explained, adding that, "going through the banking system can take anything from a few months to a year".
This has led to many students using United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) coupons to pay their school fees and cover their day-to-day living expenses.
"UNESCO works in crisis ridden countries and uses a system that allows people to still get an education or obtain educational material for students studying locally and abroad."
UNESCO requires students to submit an invoice from UCT, which can be taken by the individual or members of their family to the UNESCO offices in Harare. They will then be required to pay the organisation the Zimbabwean dollar equivalent of what they owe the University. In turn UNESCO will give the student a cheque in US dollars that is equal to what they owe UCT.
When the coupons have been paid out to UCT, the University cashes these in with UNESCO in Paris, which will deposit the rand equivalent into the student's fees account.
"This system is basically a way of working around the Forex control," said September, adding, "what is important to stress is that these coupons cannot be made out to individuals; they have to be made out to institutions and there has to be proof that you are student there and you owe the university money. So people cannot go there claiming money for themselves".
September stressed that not all the 621 Zimbabwean students registered at UCT use this system. "Not everyone uses the UNESCO system, but a report that we received earlier this year showed that UCT has received just over R1-million from the UNESCO system, that is R1-million in paid fees, money we would not have received otherwise."
For more information about the UNESCO coupon system contact Jerome September at the IAPO office in the Kramer Law Building.