The Zambia National Students Union (ZANASU) regrets the decision announced by Minister of Higher Education, Professor Nkandu Luo, to unilaterally remove provision of meal allowances to students from public universities without seeking the repeal of the law by Parliament. The cost of only 1 fire truck at US$1 million is all that would have been enough to pay meal allowances for all students from all public universities.
The decision by PF Government, a party that was elected into power and continues to masquerade itself as a pro-poor party, has hurt not only the first year students from poor families but such a decision will continue hurting generations of students from poor families who depend on provision of a living allowance during their time studying at our public universities.
The justification by the Professor Luo for removing meal allowances is an excuse Government will use every time they seek to make decisions that negatively affect students and our people in this country. When Government begun to enforce repayment of loans from former students, they used the same justification.
But the nation is also aware that the decision to extend loans to 1000 students to Palabama University, Chalimbana University, Mulungushi University, Mukuba University and Nkhwame Nkurumah University was announced on January 3, 2019 by Ministry of Higher Education Public Relations Officer, Chiselwa Kawanda, who said the extension was necessitated by loan recoveries the ministry had been undertaking from September last year. So it is patently false that the decision to abolish meal allowances is the one that will make Government to extend provision of loans to other institutions.
ZANASU, at the request of students from CBU and UNZA, will be engaging with affected students through their Unions and directly to chat the way forward on the decision which was announced by the Minister yesterday. We do not rule out any course of action, which may include litigation.
A Government that values provision of higher education especially to its poor citizenry cannot continue to allocate less money towards education as has been the case with this administration since 2015.
The Government is not broke that it can fail to pay meal allowances to students but it’s the way our funds are managed which is a challenge as can be seen from the missing K1 million for toll fees. Is it also not ironic that our Government has no problem spending billions of taxpayers’ money to either purchase 40 fire trucks or send a delegation 25 member delegation to collect a donation of 4 fire trucks in the US but yet fail to allocate more money towards higher education?
We also call upon Zambians and parents – especially those from poor families – to must never forget this decision made by Minister Luo which is meant to punish Zambians from poor families generally.
ZAMBIAN NATIONAL STUDENTS UNION