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Students learn harsh lesson
The First Post
May 16, 2007

The Avenues medical clinic in Harare was fuller than usual this weekend. Several beds were occupied by students injured in riots at the University of Zimbabwe. One of those who was able - and willing - to talk was Nathaniel Nare, 21, in his fourth year of an honours degree course in accountancy. Nathaniel, who comes from Beitbridge on the South African border, didn't look good. One leg was in plaster, and the rest of his body was bandaged heavily, the result, he told me, of blows with batons and dog bites. He said trouble began after the students gathered in a hall on campus to protest at deteriorating standards at the university. Only two lectures have been given in Nathaniel's course since February, and final examinations are fast approaching.

"After speeches from student leaders," Nathaniel told me, wincing with pain, "we began singing songs and chanting slogans, denouncing the university vice-chancellor, Professor Levy Nyagura, and President Mugabe, who is chancellor of all the universities.

"Security officers entered the hall, and started beating students with batons. We fought back, throwing chairs and bottles at them. The fighting spilled out into the open - and then we heard the sound of teargas guns. The riot police had arrived.

"We ran for it, choking in the gas, trying to get to our residence at New Complex 4, but we found our way barred by a bunch of police. They had us trapped, and we all got beaten. I thought I could escape, but they unleashed two dogs, which soon had me on the floor.

"I passed out, and next thing I knew, I was here in this bed. They tell me I have broken a limb, and I think some of my ribs are broken too. I hurt all over."

By now Nathaniel is crying quietly. This is how it is for a young man in Zimbabwe who is just trying to get an education. All around him are fellow students with similar injuries - and in similar states of despair.

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