The Zambia National Students Union (ZANASU) has commended the government for the reinstatement of student’s meal allowances which were scrapped off by the previous regime.
The government on 2nd October, 2022 through the Minister of Finance and National Planning Dr Situmbeko Musokotwane presented the 2023 national budget. And in this budget, it was cited about the budgetary allocation for education and the reinstatement of meal allowances.
Speaking during a press briefing held in Lusaka, ZANASU President Steven Kanyakula stated that the magnanimously have welcomed the move by the government to increase the allocation for education from 10% in 2022 to about 13% of the total national budget in 2023, this move really points to the government’s commitment to support the education sector going forward.
“As ZANASU, we believe spending on education must be perceived as investment and not an expense,” he said
“As ZANASU we unreservedly commend the Government of His Excellency Mr. Hakainde Hichilema, President of the republic of Zambia for the decision taken to improve the education sector- budget allocation, free education policy, reinstatement of meal allowance and recruitment of human resource amongst others,” he added
He noted that ZANASU’s position on the student’s meal allowance has been consistent over the years and they still reiterate that the support by the government to students should be on need basis so as to accommodate more beneficiaries on the scheme.
Mr Kanyakula mentioned that students across the nation are delighted by the changes made so far in the education sector and they remain optimistic for more as challenges are many on campuses, accommodation, poor infrastructure especially in public institutions, poor education curriculum amongst other challenges.
Meanwhile, ZANASU Secretary General Isaiah Mambwe explained that the republic of Zambia is aware, that on the 28th September, 2022, on the floor of the house of National Assembly of Zambia, the Kamfinsa Member of Parliament Christopher Kang’ombe brought a motion to request if the government could consider the extension of access to students’ loans to all Zambians regardless of institution to which one belongs.
Mr Mambwe noted that ZANASU is on record of having championed discussions with the governments and other stakeholders such as Loans and Scholarship Board (HELBS) around issues of access to education and funding for education in Zambia.
“Our position has always been and will be that we cannot afford to privatize our education sector because education is indeed our only hope for a better future and a better economy. Therefore, we have been categorical, that it is the government’s responsibility to educate its citizenry and ensure equity amongst all Zambians through education and sustainable development,” he said
Mr Mambwe explained that not all young people in private institutions of higher learning come from well to do families, statistics indicate, 70% of young people in private institutions of higher learning originate from rural areas in search of affordable education and greener pastures for their families of which many are young girls seeking education to uplift their lives from poverty and also avoid early marriages and teenage pregnancies.
“As the student’s Umbrella Body, we wish to register our displeasure in the manner in which some ruling members of parliament debated this (non-controversial) motion which was basically to promote access to education for Zambians regardless of institution of enrollment,” he said
“We hold the view that some UPND members of parliament should stop using PF as reference for decision making but rather prioritize the interest of Zambians as the government of the day, PF cannot be used has a basis for good governance as can be proved by the outcome of the 2021 General elections,” he added
Mr Mambwe has since called on all members of parliament both from the ruling and opposition to debate objectively without politicizing matters of national interest and also issues affecting young people such as the education sector.
He cited that what transpired on the 28th of September, 2022, on the floor of the house must not repeat itself in future as it demeans the integrity of parliament and its current composition, the debates should and must always be based on the desire to uplift the livelihood of the people of Zambia and not to protect the interest of a political party.