Opposition Green Party president Peter Sinkamba has described calls by former Water and Sanitation Minister, Raphael Nakachinda, for the immediate implementation of the free education policy as misleading and irresponsible as the budget currently running was for the Patriotic Front (PF) government.
Mr. Sinkamba said the budget left behind by the former ruling party, the PF, does not contain a resource allocation for the free education policy.
Speaking in an interview with ZANIS in Kitwe today, Mr. Sinkamba said the United Party for National Development (UPND) government cannot implement the free education policy which they promised during campaigns because the policy was not included in the current budget.
He explained that if government now diverts funds towards implementation of the policy, the action would amount to misapplication of funds which he said is a serious audit transgression.
He said the new government should be given time to settle and come up with their own budget which will start running in January next year.
Mr. Sinkamba said the new government will only be held accountable if it does not implement the free education policy in the next few years.
“What we expect from the UPND government in terms of implementing their promises will start running from January 1, when they start implementing their own budget, then that will be the time to hold them accountable on their campaign promises,” Mr. Sinkamba noted.
And Mr. Sinkamba has urged the UPND government not to discard all developmental projects left by the former government.
He suggested that only those that are not helpful should be discarded noting that getting rid of all projects would be an economic drawback.
Meanwhile, Zambia National Education Coalition (ZANEC) Executive Director, George Hamusunga, expressed disappointment over the sentiments attributed to Mr. Nakachinda.
Mr. Hamusunga said being a former Minister, Mr. Nakachinda should know that his calls are not practical as the current budget does not contain funding for the implementation of the free education policy.
He has since urged parents to ignore the calls on them not to pay school fees.
He however urged government to make a ministerial policy statement immediately Cabinet is formed and inform the nation on how it is going to implement the policy in the short, medium and long term.
Mr. Hamusunga noted that if not well managed, the policy may lead to poor quality of education delivery.
“In 2011, the PF government tried to implement a similar policy after campaigning on the premise of free education and when they won the elections, parents sent children to school without fees and government urged schools not to chase pupils who had not paid and parents were allowed to pay in installments while others never paid,” he explained.
And National Action for Quality Education in Zambia (NAQEZ) Executive Director Aron Chansa said Mr. Nakachinda’s calls are unreasonable as implementation of the free education policy right now is unrealistic.
“The current budget was done last year and the free education policy was not included so we need to give the new government time to settle, plan and budget. As much as everyone wants free education, it cannot be done just now and then, we hope no parent will buy the calls by Mr. Nakachinda,” Mr. Chansa said.
Yesterday, Mr. Nakachinda called on parents not to pay schools fees for their children because President Hakainde Hichilema promised to implement the free education policy once voted into power.