The 2021 Happy Season is over, and we are back to our usual reality! Welcome 2022!

I want to make a special plea to President Hakainde Hichilema on behalf of all young people who have made it to university, but have no one to pay for them. I am sure Uncle President HH will listen to the cries of these young people. So, here we go!

“Dear Uncle President HH,

I hope 2022 will be a great year for you, and our country, Zambia. You and I have probably never met but we were certainly at the University of Zambia together. We probably saw each other, I think.

There is a group of young people in Zambia who are extremely sad, and cannot understand why they are being punished for doing well at school and they will soon be very angry, at me and you, the generation now fully in charge of government, for preventing them from fulfilling their dreams of going to university.

You and I were lucky that Kenneth Kaunda paid for our education, from birth to university, by public funds. Do you remember the living allowances Kaunda gave us at UNZA? It made it possible for poor students such as myself and yourself to fit into the University – we too could buy clothes, a kettle and tea or coffee – sugar we used to liberally take from the University dining halls!

Do you remember that we used to simply walk into the dining hall, pick a tray, and get served the food of the day? Food was so free that students actually protested when meal coupons were introduced and one of the most profound unspoken arguments against meal coupons was that meal coupons would make it hard to eat in the dining hall with our guests (you must remember, Uncle President HH, we called some of these guests “imports”because they substituted for our failure to socially connect with UNZA quality!).

At the beginning of each academic year, you will recall, we would all have been allocated bookshop coupons to collect the recommended books for all our courses. We paid nothing for stationery and our books.

Only two students were allocated to a room. A student room was for studying, you know.

And then we had a relatively well stocked largest library in the country – deck after deck of books!Being at UNZA for me was intellectually the closest on Earth I think I ever came to being in heaven on Earth. All I needed to do was manage my personal life well, read, attend my lectures and tutorials, do mylaboratories assignments, and I knew the degree was mine, and with flying colours too!

Coming from a poor working class family meant that being a “Monk” (a serious male student who put on hold university love life and other social activities) was a must to graduate with a good degree. There was also the possibility of being awarded the highest “Monk” honour – becoming the “Pontiff General”, an honour usuallyreserved for “Monks” getting yearly consistent distinctions, usually these were from the Engineering faculty.

As for female students, smart ones from poor working class and rural families simply became “Nuns” and the most studious and strict of them all was ordained “Mother Theresa”!

All we needed to do was transport ourselves to the university and, for students coming from families with chronic insufficient funds sicknessa part of the living allowance would have been saved for transport going back home! I was among these students.

Looking back now, you and I know that there were, of course, a number of things completely wrong and very wasteful about the way we were funded at UNZA (remember there was only one university and it had a federal structure). Our funding from government were “loans” which the government never administered properly, and rarely if ever, enforced payment from graduates! Now we know that the bookshop mechanism for distributing free stationery and books to students was especially designed for fraud and corruption, and massive waste!

Still, with all its weaknesses and waste, there was a profound statement the politicians of the day and the Zambian government were making to young people who would have worked hard at primary and secondary school to qualify to go to the University of Zambia and it was this: that the country greatly valued the education of all its young people irrespective of their social background and was in a hurry to harvest graduates who would help the country develop, and fast too! For this, I know I speak on your behalf too when I thank Kaunda and all his fellow nationalists for placing such a supreme priority on education.

You and I are products of an education system fully funded by the masses of Zambia through their taxes. It was this publicly fully funded education that enabled Kaunda and his friends to create a country in less than 15 years after the 24th of October, 1964, when Zambia became independent. You and I know just howuneducated our extremely mean and selfish British colonialists left the country in 1964!

Uncle President HH, I beg you, please do find the money, urgently, and pay for the more than 8000 students who cannot pay university fees! Time is running out fast, as universities will soon open.

I Know you and I know it is the right thing to do, and economically, politically and morally, it is the correct thing to do:the government of Zambia must, as a matter of regency, find the money to get the 8004 students who need university fees into universities this year.We will never developZambia and get out of our poverty and debt trap by so callously shredding and destroying talented, intelligent, hard working young people by denying them their university education dreams!

These young people are among the millions of young Zambians who voted for you, dear HH, because they heard you promise public funded (also wrongly called “free” education). They are now looking to you to deliver on your promise. Please, on their behalf, I beg you, do not destroy their lives by denying them the chance to pursue their education dreams.

You and I know that it is such a massive waste of our human resources, at a time we cannot afford to waste so much young human lives,to fail to put these young lives in universities.

You are not a cruel man. You know it is base cruelty and an insult to the hard work, discipline, and intelligence of these young people, to reward them with a loafer’s life after successfully completing their secondary school education and passing to go to university! It is cold and insensitive torture to the extreme, to exclude these young people from universities simply because they were born in poor families!

The majority of these young people carry the hopes of escape from grinding poverty of thousands of families. You are not a man to crush such dreams, I know that.

I repeat: we will never develop, defeat our poverty and pay our debts if we kill the productive futures of our young people in this way!I know you know and fully understand this simple axiomatic truth: an uneducated country is a poor and debt driven country.

Politics, they say, is the art and science of the possible.Please Uncle President HHdo find the money and get these young souls in universities this year. It is the right and proper thing to do, trust me.

I know you can do it. I know you will do it; otherwise, what are Uncles for?

I thank you in advance!

Uncle Azele.”

Okay, young fellows, let us now wait with bated breathfor Uncle President HH to pay the fees! I know he will.

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