Opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema has charged that the move to scrap meal allowances for students is shocking and irresponsible.
Mr Hichilema said at a time when the price of food and essential items are fast increasing as a result of the PF’s failure to manage the economy, Government appears to once again be intent on worsening the suffering of the Zambian people by any means.
He said this is a decision that will affect everyone as it directly damages prospects for the future.
“These are the youth we expect to be the business leaders of tomorrow and help breathe new life into our economy and create jobs for others,” Mr Hichilema said.
“At a time such as this, one would have expected a responsible Government to actually consider upward adjustments of the allowances in line with the high cost of living, but the PF regime has instead done the opposite by completely cutting off a lifeline of support for our youths.”
Mr Hichilema said the UPND expectant that this will soon be recognised as being among the reckless decisions and policy statements the PF manufacture to create a crisis, only to U-turn and reverse it with the hope of getting accolades.
He said the UPND knows that President Lungu might reverse this directive for the sake of gaining political mileage.
“It is no secret that Government finances are tight and that savings must be made, but there can be no excuse for such cuts that impact our people directly and damage pivotal sectors such as education on which our whole development as a country depends until the frivolous behaviours of the PF Government have been brought to the end. The sacrifices should be the lavish ceremonies at Heroes’ Stadium and expensive private jet hire to New York, not support for our youth,” he said.
“In fact, reckless decisions such as this one have the potential for far-reaching negative consequences, for example through producing half-baked graduates that have been forced to spend study time looking for money to buy food and the fuelling of illicit activities in an effort to survive.”
He added, “It seems that as time passes more and more Zambians are suffering because of the PF’s misjudgement. Panicked decision-making and policy making on the hoof have left industry, students, miners, families and all manner of people helpless to the whims of a Government in disarray.”
“Is the PF so out of touch with its one time supporters that is it does not see how families are already struggling to support their children and relative sufficiently so that they can pursue their studies in the hope of finding a good job thereafter? Now, with price rises of over 20%, thousands of job losses in the mining sector and beyond and continued power cuts, we are stretching too many too far. This is to say nothing of the continually delayed salaries of staff.”
He said UPND maintains that there is a colossal amount of waste under the current Government that can be cut so that they can be invested in critical areas such as healthcare and education.
Meanwhile FDD has released the following Statement
9th March, 2016
ABOLISHING OF MEAL ALLOWANCES FOR CBU AND UNZA STUDENTS IS ILLEGAL AND COUNTERPRODUCTIVE
The decision by the PF Government to arbitrary ABOLISH Meal Allowances for students who are on Government Bursary at UNZA and CBU is ILLEGAL, IRRESPONSIBLE, UNJUSTIFIABLE and COUNTERPRODUCTIVE.
The Meal Allowance is a legal entitlement for all students on Government Sponsorship, thus it cannot just be scrapped off with a spasm of unguided and irrational emotions by one Michael Kaingu. As a component of the binding contract of government sponsorship for students on bursary, it cannot be crapped off singularly, unilaterally and arbitrary.
The PF Government must understand and appreciate the fact that the Meal Allowance was introduced to cover up the cost of meals that the two Universities were directly providing to the students.
Instead of paying students their meal allowances and resolve the crisis at the two Universities, the Paya Future Government has created yet another problem. This action is a recipe for conflict and student unrest.
We demand for the immediate reversal of this reckless decision. Let students be paid their meal allowances and be allowed to learn in peace. The money for meal allowances was already budgeted for in the National Budget.
We equally demand for the immediate payment of February salaries for all the lecturers at UNZA.
This Paya Future Government should stop playing SOJO with the lives of our students and for once be serious. Education is a right and not a privilege for children of Ministers.