By GIDEON NYENDWA
STUDENTS at the University of Zambia (UNZA) are saddened that Government has neglected them by paying a deaf ear to their plight because they voted based on the promise of free education from grade one up to university and reintroduction of meal allowances.
University of Zambia Students Union (UNZASU) president Gabriel Banda said President Hakainde Hichilema being a product of UNZA knew very well the challenges that the institution faces and it was unfortunate that he had chosen to keep quiet on matters that involve students’ welfare.
Mr Banda said that the removal of subsidies on fuel have had adverse effects on students’ welfare because prices of essential commodities like mealie-meal, including transport fares have gone up.
He said that the removal of subsidies had also led to a rise in poverty levels from the homes where the students come from leaving them more vulnerable.
Mr Banda said that abandoning the reintroduction of meal allowances and increment of subsistence allowances which was supposed to mitigate the higher cost of living has negatively affected the students’ wellbeing.
He said UNZA was constructed for the poor and for that reason the government was supposed to increase funding to save the institution from diminishing.
Mr Banda said Zambia should learn from the way neighbouring countries handle public universities, where for instance, the University of Namibia gets 58 percent grant from their government while UNZA gets 24 percent grant of its budget from Government.
He also said that the students were saddened by the reduced budgetary allocation to the education sector for 2022.
Mr Banda said that UNZA was given a minimal funding increment of K30 million bringing the annual funding to K230 million from K200 million which was not enough because the annual budget for the school was K600 million annually.
He said Government needed to fulfill its promises like repealing the repayment of student loans, reducing tuition fees in public universities, as well as reinstating meal allowances at UNZA and the Copperbelt University.
“That is the only way people could take them for their word,” he said.
Mr Banda said that it was worrying that President Hichilema is quiet and takes it as business as usual regardless of the submissions that were made to State House and the Ministry of Education by UNZA management, University of Zambia Lecturers and Researchers’ Union and UNZASU.