Patriotic Front deputy media director Antonio Mwanza says University of Zambia (UNZA) and Copperbelt University (CBU) alumni who benefited from the students loan scheme must pay back without fail.
Commenting on the decision by the Higher Education Loans and Scholarship Board to start demanding loan repayment from the UNZA and CBU alumni from as far back as 2004, Mwanza told News Diggers! in an interview that it was important that government got back the money from former students to assist the next student generation to acquire tertiary education.
“The reason why we fought for a loan scheme was because it has to be an revolving fund to allow the next generation of students also to have access to education. This education we have gotten from government should be extended to other people; it can’t just remain with us. That’s the reason why we should pay. I know there are graduates who are saying, ‘we don’t have jobs so we can’t pay.’ But the loan scheme clearly stipulates when you qualify to start paying back. But also, I want my fellow comrades to do away with this notion that they want government to give them jobs because in the first instance, we did not go to school to get jobs. We went to school to get education and we have to use that education to create jobs; we have to use that education to involve ourselves in entrepreneurship; we have to use that education, yes, to get government jobs. But there is no government in the world, which afford to employ everybody, it’s not possible. There is no government in the world, you can go to America, you can go to England, you can go to the biggest economy in Europe, which is Germany, but no government can manage to employ everybody,” Mwanza explained.
“So, the issue of ‘give us jobs’, yes, the government is there to create an enabling environment for each person to invest and, yes, the government does employ; this is the reason why government employs thousands of teachers, nurses, doctors and different personnel every year. But we should stop this notion of thinking that we go to school to get a job, and that job must be a white collar job! But we didn’t go to school to get a job; we went there to get education and we need to use that education to think outside the box, not to sit and say, ‘no me at school, I got a degree so Mr Lungu must come and give me a job!’ It doesn’t work like that, it defeats the whole purpose of why we went to school. Why did we go school? Did we go to school to become beggars? We went to school to be innovative, to be creative, to be thinkers, to be philosophers, to think outside the box. And this is the reason, for instance, government is changing the education structure from this theoretical approach to education to vocational approach to education so that we can be filled with real life-surviving skills; so that we stop this thing of waiting for government to employ you with a degree.”
Mwanza said he was one of the people who fought for the introduction of loans.
“Me, I am an old man, I don’t get loans, I didn’t go to the university to get a loan. What I got, a bursary, so we don’t have to pay. Actually, we were the ones who fought for the introduction of the loans, I fought for it whilst we were in school, but by the time it was finally introduced, we had already left UNZA. I want to make it very clear that, we were the ones who fought for the introduction of student loans, and like I have stipulated, the reasons were very clear, number one; government loans by its very nature have been very limited and only a few students have benefited from bursaries because government doesn’t have enough resources to pay for everybody. So, we wanted to increase access to bursaries. Number two; if you look at the bursaries committee structure, it is over-centralised, meaning that those that are coming from outside Lusaka, it would extremely difficult for them to access the bursary,” said Mwanza.
“Because even myself, when I finished school in the 90s, in 1997, I was doing my first year at the University of Zambia; I was not even aware that there was a bursaries committee to which I was eligible to apply and get government sponsorship, because there are no offices in other provinces for the bursaries committee. The bursaries committee is not decentralised, it’s only in Lusaka. So, we wanted it to be decentralized because we realised that it was difficult for people outside Lusaka to access government sponsorship. Number three; there was a lot of corruption, which was associated with bursaries to an extent that those who were coming from rich families were the ones who were collecting the bursaries while those who were coming from under-privileged families were not collecting the bursaries. Then also, the loans scheme clearly stipulates the modalities, how payments should be done, when payment should be done and who has to pay.”